High Vitamin E Intake May Protect Against Alzheimer's Disease

BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of age-related dementia. It is characterized by the accumulation of a particular type of protein around brain cells that interfere with their activity. Some evidence indicates that free radicals promote the formation of this protein (beta-amyloid) and that vitamin E might protect against its formation. Two teams of researchers presented study results supporting these ideas at the recent Eighth International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, held in Stockholm, Sweden. Preliminary results from the meeting abstracts are reported.

Study 1: Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and other institutions analyzed dietary and health data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. They focused on 579 participants 60 years of age or older. During a nine-year period, 10 percent of the subjects developed Alzheimer's disease. People consuming the most vitamin E from supplements or food were 62 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, compared with those who consumed the least.

Study 2: Researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, analyzed the diets that 74 patients with Alzheimer's disease had consumed when they were still in middle age, as recalled by a surrogate subject. These diets were then compared to those of 253 healthy subjects. Two dietary patterns emerged: one high in antioxidants and low in dietary fats, and the other low in antioxidants and high in dietary fats. People eating the high-antioxidant, low-fat diet were 55 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. The high-antioxidant, low-fat diet was especially protective for people with the ApoE e4 gene, considered a major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.

IMPLICATIONS: These studies, like the ones referred to above, provide support for a protective effect of vitamin E and antioxidants in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease or slowing its progression.

Corrada MM, Breitner JC, Hallfrisch J, et al., "Reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease with antioxidant vitamin intake: the Baltimore longitudinal study of aging." Abstract #1021. Petot GJ, Debanne SM, Traore F, et al., "Dietary patterns during mid-adult life and risk for Alzheimer's disease." Abstract #1124. Both presented at the Eighth International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, Stockholm, Sweden, July 20-25, 2002.

For the original abstracts, visit: http://www.alz.org/internationalconference/abstracts.htm

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