According to a new report in JAMA, vitamin E can help people cope with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found that the treatment reduced burden on caregivers.
Both Vitamin E and memantine, an FDA-approved drug, have been shown to slow the rate of progression of moderately severe Alzheimer’s disease. But Veterans Administration researchers across the country wanted to know if Vitamin E and memantine could also slow the rate of Alzheimer’s progression in patients with mild to moderate forms of the disease. Different patient groups received Vitamin E alone, memantine alone, a combination of the two or a placebo pill daily.
“Patients had to have a caregiver present who could manage the medications,” explained Dr. Maurice Dysken, a geriatric phsychiatrist at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.
Caregivers also answered questionnaires about how ordinary activities were affected by the patients’ illness, including using the telelphine, shopping, cooking, dressing and bathing.
Adults require about 15 mg (22.4 IU) of vitamin E per day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. The vitamin (alpha tocopherol) is found in vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oils.
For the study, researchers analyzed data obtained from 613 people with mild to moderate AD. Participants were divided into groups and they either received a daily dose of vitamin E; memantine; combination of vitamin E and the drug, or a placebo, according to BBC.
Memantine belongs to the category of drugs called NMDA receptor antagonists and is used to slow AD progression in patients who are at the advanced stages of the disease. The drug works by decreasing abnormal activity in the brain. However, the drug doesn’t cure the condition.
Researchers found that people on vitamin E had lower functional decline when compared with others. They were able to perform daily activities (washing or dressing) better than people on the dummy pill. Also, participants getting the combo treatment were less dependent on caretakers.
“This is a well done study by a solid research group,” said Maria Carrillo, vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, in a statement, CNN reported. “The results are positive enough to warrant more research to replicate and confirm these findings, but should not change current medical practice. No one should take vitamin E for Alzheimer’s except under the supervision of a physician.”
Latest data from the Alzheimer’s Association shows that over 5 million people in the U.S. have AD, a number that is expected to explode to 13. 8 to 16 million people by 2050. There is no cure for the disease.
However, people should consult their doctors before increasing vitamin E levels in the diet as the vitamin is also linked to a higher chance of developing prostate cancer. The risk stays even after people stop taking the supplements.
Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease.