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Daily High-Dose Vitamin E Might Delay Alzheimer’s

By Dennis Thompson

There might be some good news in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease: A new study suggests that a large daily dose of vitamin E might help slow progression of the memory-robbing illness.

Alzheimer’s patients given a “pharmacological” dose of vitamin E experienced slower declines in thinking and memory and required less caregiver time than those taking a placebo, said Dr. Maurice Dysken, lead author of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We found vitamin E significantly slowed the rate of progression versus placebo,” said Dysken, who is with the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Experts stressed, however, that vitamin E does not seem to fight the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s and is in no way a cure.

The study involved more than 600 patients at 14 VA medical centers with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Researchers split the group into quarters, with each receiving a different therapy.

One-quarter received a daily dose of 2,000 international units (IU) of alpha tocopherol, a form of vitamin E. That’s a relatively large dose; by comparison, a daily multivitamin contains only about 100 IUs of vitamin E, Dysken said.

The other sets of patients were given the Alzheimer’s medication memantine, a combination of vitamin E and memantine, or a placebo.

People who took vitamin E alone experienced a 19 percent reduction in their annual rate of decline compared to a placebo during the study’s average 2.3 years of follow-up, the researchers said.

In practical terms, this means the vitamin E group enjoyed a more than six-month delay in the progression of Alzheimer’s, the researchers said.

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