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Vitamin E Seen as Potential Alzheimer's Weapon; Harvard Publication Reports on Role in Aging

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Scientists at Harvard University list Vitamin E as a potential weapon in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.

Discussing dementia in a report on aging, the Harvard Health Letter in its March issue distinguishes between Alzheimer's, "an insidious disease which means it starts and get worse for a time without apparent symptoms," and vascular dementia, which "actually does come on suddenly."

Symptoms of vascular dementia vary, depending on the areas of the brain affected by "what are in essence tiny strokes," the publication of the Harvard Medical School said. "People usually decline in discrete steps, in contrast to the slow, gradual losses of Alzheimer's patients."

Alzheimer's is the leading cause of dementia, a persistent loss of memory, believed to be a consequence of a physical disease that has attacked the brain, among people over 60 in the United States. Alzheimer's accounts for 60 percent to 70 percent of the dementia cases; the next leading cause is vascular dementia.

"Even if the root cause is early Alzheimer's disease," the Health Letter said, "there's hope." Vitamin E was cited, with the article reporting that "some doctors believe that Vitamin E ... may help." Medications that boost acetylcholine levels in the brain are also under consideration, the Health Letter said, in addition to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs like ibuprofen.

In studies, Vitamin E has been found to help lower the risk of vascular dementia. A long-term research project in Hawaii determined that men who took supplements of both Vitamin E and Vitamin C had an 88 percent lower risk for vascular dementia than those who didn't take the vitamin supplements.

The University of California at Berkeley recently termed antioxidants, including Vitamin E, as "friends of memory" in a report on a study of older adults in Newfoundland which found that healthy people over 65 improved their mental capabilities when they took nutritional supplements including Vitamin E.

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