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Health Information A Memorable Study

A daily dose of vitamin E may slow memory loss for some people with Alzheimer's disease.

If people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease take vitamin E, it may be easier for them to remember to keep taking it.

For people in the early stages of the memory-robbing disease, taking a daily vitamin E supplement may slow the decline of their memory and ability to perform basic tasks, such as feeding themselves or putting on clothes, according to a study published in the December issue of JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

The research also cast doubt on an earlier report that high doses of vitamin E may increase the risk of death in those with Alzheimer's. Study participants were found to be no more likely to die of any cause than those taking memantine — a drug used to treat Alzheimer's — or a placebo, but further research is necessary.

Recalling the Results

Researchers recruited 613 participants — divided into four groups — to see whether vitamin E or a combination of the vitamin along with memantine would slow cognitive decline in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

After about two years, the group taking vitamin E alone was the only one to show a significantly slower decline in ability to perform daily tasks. Participants in this group also needed roughly two fewer hours of caregiver help a day.

Putting It In Perspective

The researchers want people to understand, however, that taking vitamin E is not a way to prevent Alzheimer's. The findings show vitamin E may slow the rate of progression, but it does not stop it.

And Denis Evans, MD, a neurologist at Rush, wrote an editorial accompanying the study, saying the results were modest in that symptoms were made more tolerable rather than being reversed. He also cautioned that the results shouldn't be applied to anyone who doesn't have mild to moderate Alzheimer's.

Though it doesn't give us a remedy, the research provides a glimmer of hope in the quest to treat what is a disabling disease without a cure. Evans says doctors should now consider suggesting vitamin E — found in foods such almonds, leafy vegetables, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds — to patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.


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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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February 2014
 

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