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Vitamin E may lessen Alzheimer’s symptoms

Jan. 2, 2005
Courtesy of the JAMA Network Journals
and World Science staff

Vit­a­min E may slow the pro­gres­sion of Alzheimer’s dis­ease symp­toms among pa­tients with mild-to-mod­er­ate cases, eas­ing the bur­den for their care­givers, a study re­ports.

Mau­rice W. Dysken of the Min­ne­ap­o­lis VA Health Care Sys­tem, and col­leagues as­sessed the ef­fects of high-dose vit­a­min E; an­oth­er drug called me­mantine; and both com­bined in Alzheimer’s pa­tients. The part­ici­pants were al­ready tak­ing blood pressure drugs called acetyl­cho­lin­ester­ase in­hib­i­tors, which had been found to re­duce Alz­heimer’s risk.

Over an av­er­age fol­low-up time of 2.3 years, the vit­a­min E group showed slower “func­tional de­cline” than those re­ceiv­ing in­ac­tive pills, or place­bos, the re­search­ers said. 

They measured the an­nu­al rate of de­cline in “ac­ti­vi­ties of daily liv­ing” as drop­ping by an aver­age of 19 per­cent in the vita­min E group. In ad­di­tion, se­ri­ous side ef­fects weren’t seen and care­giver time dropped by about two hours dai­ly, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors said. The dos­age was 2,000 in­terna­t­ional un­its of vit­a­min E dai­ly.

The study ap­peared in the Jan. 1 is­sue of Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­socia­t­ion.

Nei­ther me­mantine nor the vit­a­min E-me­mantine com­bina­t­ion showed clin­i­cal ben­e­fit, though past re­search had found me­man­tine bene­ficial in “mod­er­ately severe” cases, the sci­en­tists added.

They said the study is one of the larg­est and longest treat­ment tri­als in mild-to-mod­er­ate Alz­heimer’s pa­tients, en­rol­ling about 600, and sheds light on safe­ty con­cerns of vit­a­min E re­ported in a 2005 stu­dy. “We found no sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in mor­tal­ity with vit­a­min E. The an­nu­al mor­tal­ity rate was 7.3 per­cent in the [vit­a­min E] group vs. 9.4 per­cent for the pla­ce­bo group,” they wrote.


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Vitamin E may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms among patients with mild-to-moderate cases, easing the burden for their caregivers, a study reports. Maurice W. Dysken of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, and colleagues assessed the effects of high-dose vitamin E; another drug called memantine; and both combined in patients already taking drugs called acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which have been found to reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Over an average follow-up time of 2.3 years, the vitamin E group had slower “functional decline” than those receiving inactive pills or placebos, the researchers said. Their annual rate of decline in “activities of daily living” was reduced by 19 percent. In addition, for these patients, serious side effects weren’t seen and caregiver time dropped by about two hours daily, the investigators said. The dosage was 2,000 international units of vitamin E daily. The study appeared in the Jan. 1 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association. Neither memantine nor the vitamin E-memantine combination showed clinical benefit, though past research had found memantine effective in Alzheimer’s and moderately severe dementia, the scientists added. They said the study is one of the largest and longest treatment trials in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s patients, enrolling about 600, and sheds light on safety concerns of vitamin E reported in a 2005 study. “We found no significant increase in mortality with vitamin E. The annual mortality rate was 7.3 percent in the [vitamin E] group vs. 9.4 percent for the placebo group,” they wrote.