Study Suggests High Dose of Vitamin E Slows Alzheimer's Progression

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Do you have a loved one who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease? If so, you may want to talk to his or her doctor about the possibility of taking a daily high-dose of vitamin E, which has just been found to slow the disease’s progression.

    This study involved 613 participants who had mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease who were patients of 14 Veterans Affairs medical centers. The study, which started in August 2007 and continued until September 2012, involved the scientific gold-standard reach design.

    Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Group 1 received 2000 international units of vitamin E daily. Group 2 took 20 milligrams of memantine (a type of medication to treat Alzheimer’s disease) daily. A third group was assigned to take the doses of both vitamin E and memantine. Group 4 was given a placebo.

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    During the study, researchers assessed participants’ cognitive abilities by using the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study/Activities of Daily Living Inventory score, as well as additional cognitive, neuropsychiatric, functional and caregiver measures. Two years after the start of the study, researchers found that participants who had taken vitamin E had better scores on the ADCS-ADL Inventory scores than participants in the placebo group. The researchers pointed out that this change in the level of decline for Group 1 “translates into a delay in clinical progress of 19 percent per year compared with placebo or a delay of approximately 6.2 months over the follow-up period.” Furthermore, caregivers reported having to spend less time in supporting these individuals with caregiving tasks. The analysis noted that there was no significant differences found in the groups that took memantine alone or both memantine and vitamin E. This finding suggests that a high-dose regiment of vitamin E may help a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease function more independently for a longer period of time.

    This study’s findings echo the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), a 1997 study that found that a high daily dose of 2000 international units of vitamin E delayed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, later research on high-dose vitamin E suggests that it may increase the risk of death, especially for people who have coronary artery disease. The Alzheimer’s Association warns that people with Alzheimer’s should not take vitamin E to treat the disease except when under the supervision of a physician.  “Vitamin E – especially at the high disease used in the ADCS study – can negatively interact with other medications, including those prescribed to keep blood from clotting or to lower cholesterol.”

    So what if you’re someone like me who has reached middle age and is watching all of these studies not as a caregiver, but as someone who is concerned about developing dementia in the future? Should I – or you – take high doses of this vitamin?  While vitamin E is an antioxidant and may protect brain cells and other parts of the body from chemical wear and tear, the answer is no. Why? See the last portion of the previous paragraph. (Note that the recommended daily amount for healthy adults is 22.4 international units daily – as compared to the 2,000 international units that were given to the study’s participants.)

  • Instead, the experts at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging recommend the following steps:

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    • Exercise regularly.
    • Consume a healthy diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables.
    • Engage in social activities as well as those that are intellectually stimulating.
    • Control type 2 diabetes.
    • Lower high blood pressure levels.
    • Lower high blood cholesterol levels.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Stop smoking.
    • Seek treatment for depression.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Alzheimer’s Association. (ND). Medications for memory loss.

    Dooren, J. C. (2013). High vitamin-E dose slows decline in Alzheimer’s patients, study finds. The Wall Street Journal.

    Dysken, M. W., et al. (2014). Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer’s disease. JAMA.

    National Institute on Aging. (2013). Preventing Alzheimer’s disease: What do we know?

Published On: January 05, 2014