Early stage Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients could benefit from daily doses of vitamin E, according to a recent study of Alzheimer’s patients at 14 Veterans Affairs medical centers.
Daily doses of the compound were found to slow, by up to six months, the progression of Alzheimer’s in patients at the mild-to -moderate stage of the disease, according to the results of a four-year study published in the January edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The test subjects at VA medical centers between 2007 and 2011were given either 2,000 international units of vitamin E each day, 20 milligrams a day of mematine –a compound that treats memory loss and mental changes—or a combination of the two.
The study marked the first clinical investigation of the use of vitamin E, found to be effective for moderately severe Alzheimer’s patients, and mematine, useful for treating dementia, for patients diagnosed in the mild-to-moderate stage, the journal reported. Vitamin E also has been established as an effective treatment for slowing the disease in those diagnosed at the severe stage.
“There were no significant differences in the groups receiving memantine alone or memantine plus alpha tocopherol. These findings suggest benefit of alpha tocopherol in mild to moderate AD by slowing functional decline and decreasing caregiver burden,” the Jan. 1 article said.
In patients who received high doses of vitamin E alone with no memantine, researchers found that the disease clinically progressed at a rate 19 percent slower than individuals who were give the placebo, memantine alone, or a combination of drugs.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, AD affects more than 5 million Americans at any one time, with one out of every three seniors in the country dying with a dementia-related disorder. This puts 15.4 million family members and friends into the position of “caregiver,” which translates into 17.5 billion “hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias” says the Alzheimer’s Association.
Harvard School of Public Health studies describe vitamin E as a scavenger for “free radicals,” or loose electrons within the body that can cause damage to healthy cells.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin E has many benefits, especially when it comes to eye health and cancer prevention. However, high dosages should only be taken at the recommendation of a doctor.
“High doses of alpha-tocopherol supplements can cause hemorrhage and interrupt blood coagulation in animals,” reports the NIH, adding that platelets have a harder time collecting together- especially when coupled with aspirin.
Average adults over the age of 19 and in good health are advised to take no more than 1,000 mg/d of Vitamin E in synthetic or natural form.