Vitamin E: It May Help Those With Alzheimer's Live Longer

Christine Kennard Health Pro
  • People with Alzheimer's disease who take vitamin E live longer. These are the findings of a study headed by Valory Pavlik, PhD, who followed 847 people for an average of five years. The average age of the sample was almost 74. All had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and were in various stages of the disease


    About two thirds of the sample were prescribed 1,000 international units of vitamin E twice a day along with an Alzheimer's drug called a cholinesterase inhibitor (Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne). Less than 10 percent of the group took only vitamin E and approximately 15 percent did not take vitamin E at all.

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    The study found that people who took vitamin E, with or without a cholinesterase inhibitor, had a 26 percent chance of living longer. The team found those taking a cholinesterase inhibitor alone did not appear to gain any survival benefit.


    The findings of increased longevity come at a time when vitamin E and other vitamins and supplements are under scrutiny. Vitamin E, an antioxidant found in some vegetables, oils, nuts, and some fortified cereals, can cause diarrhea and easy bruising when given in high doses. The usual recommended daily allowance of vitamin E is only 30UI. Antioxidants are known to protect body tissues from damage caused by unstable particles known as free radicals.


    Following previous research findings by Mary Sano into increased life span andthe possibility of delaying the progression ofsevere Alzheimer's disease, the American Academy of Neurology recommended the dose used in this study.


    Some caution is required. Previous research by Dr E.R Millar and colleagues at John Hopkins, looked at over 11 studies involving high dose vitamin E supplements. They found that when used for a variety of illnesses there was a small increase in the risk of death. Scientists at the University of Washington reported in February '08 that taking daily supplements of vitamin E for 10 years was linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.


    It is clear that more research is needed into the use of vitamin E in general and for people with Alzheimer's disease.


    Vitamin E in high doses must only be taken under medical supervision. 


    Valory Plavic, PhD., Baylor College of Medicine's Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center in Houston, Texas, is a member of the American Academy of Neurology. The research was presented at the American Academy of Neurology 60th Anniversary Annual Meeting in Chicago in April 2008.    

Published On: April 22, 2008