On Tuesday, I told you no drug can cure Alzheimer’s disease (AD). But one vitamin holds great promise. In fact, in a new study, men and women with AD who took this vitamin significantly delayed the progress of their disease. They lived longer overall. And perhaps more importantly, they lived longer independently.
Here’s another interesting point about this study…
Researchers compared the vitamin to a drug commonly prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe AD patients. And the vitamin completely outperformed the drug!
For this study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers recruited 613 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Most of the participants attended 14 various Veteran’s Affairs medical centers around the country. Researchers randomly divided them into four groups.
The first group took 2,000 IU of vitamin E each day for a little over two years, on average. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. It acts as an antioxidant. And it can slow down processes that damage cells in the brain and elsewhere.
The second group took 20 mg of Memantine, a commonly prescribed AD drug. The third group took both vitamin E and Memantine. And the fourth group took a placebo.
Researchers found that the vitamin E group had significantly slower “functional” decline compared to the placebo group. This means they lived longer independently. They continued to do their own cooking, washing, and shopping. And they required less caregiver time and attention compared to the other three groups.
Overall, the researchers saw a “delay in clinical progression of 19 percent per year” in the vitamin E group compared to the placebo group. And that difference really adds up over the years.
Interestingly, neither the Memantine drug group nor the combined Memantine-vitamin E group showed any clinical benefits. Researchers think Memantine must interfere with how the body metabolizes vitamin E. It’s a sad state of affairs, indeed, when a mainstream AD treatment not only doesn’t work, but negates the effects of a basic nutrient that does work!
Vitamin E showed other benefits as well. The annual death rate in the vitamin E group was only 7.3 percent. But the groups that didn’t take vitamin E had an annual death rate of 9.4 percent.
Now, you may remember about 10 years ago vitamin E got a bad rap in the mainstream press. In a “pseudo-science” meta-analysis, researchers found that men and women who took 400 IU or more each day of vitamin E had a higher overall mortality risk. But the study was poorly designed. And I don’t trust its results one iota.
In an accompanying editorial, researchers say the new JAMA study is one of the best clinical trials to date on Alzheimer’s disease. And I agree. The same cannot be said, however, for the hodgepodge of studies on vitamin E thrown together back in 2005.
Of course, the recent study used a much higher dose of vitamin E. And that’s a key factor. As I’ve said before, it’s very important to use adequate doses of vitamins. Especially in scientific studies. But this simply doesn’t happen in the U.S. because of the outdated, inadequate Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA). Most studies with vitamins use pitifully low doses.
The new JAMA study used 2,000 IU of vitamin E. And they found no harmful side effects. Only benefits. But if researchers continue to waste time and money designing studies with inadequate doses of vitamins, we will not find useful answers.
While we continue to wait for more useful results to come in, you can’t go wrong taking 50 IU per day of vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopheryl acetate). If you are actually struggling with dementia, check with your doctor about upping your dose of vitamin E. Hopefully he or she is not still following the misguided, outdated research from 10 years ago.
In addition, make sure to get plenty of all the B vitamins. Folic acid is especially important. It helps reduce homocysteine levels, which sharply increase your risk of developing AD and cardiovascular diseases. In one European study, a daily dose of 800 micrograms of folic acid significantly lowered homocysteine. It also improved cognitive function and memory in middle-aged and older adults.
And remember, healthy circulation and blood flow are also critical.
1. “Effect of Vitamin E and Memantine on Functional Decline in Alzheimer Disease – The TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial,” JAMA. 2014; 311(1): 33-34
2. “Meta-analysis: high-dosage vitamin E supplementation may increase all-cause mortality,” Ann Intern Med 2005;142(1):37-46