Does Vitamin E help people with Alzheimer’s disease? The New York Times reports that a study published in the January 1, 2014, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that it just might. The study found that over slightly more than two years, high-dose vitamin E slowed the decline of people suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease by roughly six months, on average.
The study showed vitamin E did not delay cognitive or memory deterioration but instead seemed to temporarily protect the ability to perform daily activities like dressing or feeding themselves. Researchers said that, compared with other study participants, the subjects who took vitamin E also required about two fewer hours of help from caregivers per day.
The study also showed that high doses of vitamin E appear to be safe. In 2005, analysis suggested that high doses of vitamin E could increase the risk of mortality, and so doctors stopped suggesting it to Alzheimer’s patients. That analysis, however, looked at the effect of vitamin E on patients with various illnesses, not just Alzheimer’s. Researchers in this study confirmed they did not find a safety issue in terms of the vitamin E dosage.
However, this study should be taken with a grain of salt. This study showed no effect on mental facilities and cognitive decline, echoing past studies that have shown high doses of vitamin E to have very limited effects. Likewise, vitamin E has never been proven to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. It has only slowed functional decline in those who already have developed mild or moderate manifestations of the disease.
While the study authors do not recommend anyone taking care of a family member suffering from mild to moderate rush out to buy vitamin E supplements (especially since the dosage in the study, 2,000 I.U.s, is much higher than any commercially available supplements), other doctors who have read the results say that it is an option that, in the absence of anything else that is drastic, could and perhaps should be raised with patients.
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