There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are possibly ways to slow down the progression of symptoms of the brain illness that impairs memory and other brain functions. A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests that some people with Alzheimer’s might benefit from daily doses of vitamin E.
The study concluded: “Among patients with mild to moderate AD [Alzheimer’s Disease], 2000 IU/d of alpha tocopherol compared with placebo resulted in slower functional decline. There were no significant differences in the groups receiving memantine alone or memantine plus alpha tocopherol. These findings suggest benefit of alpha tocopherol in mild to moderate AD by slowing functional decline and decreasing caregiver burden.”
Vitamin E is alpha tocopherol and memantine is a drug used to reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
“It is unclear why there were functional but not cognitive benefits of this intervention,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations. “The lack of cognitive benefit re-emphasizes the need for replication and confirmation of these results before considering this as a treatment strategy.”
According to Carrillo, functional decline includes problems with daily activities such as shopping, preparing meals, bathing, eating, planning, and traveling. No benefits were seen on any of the cognitive measures in any of the treatment groups. Cognitive measures are tests that assess changes in thinking and memory.
Significantly, this study of primarily men indicated that for those taking a daily high dose of vitamin E over a two year period, there was a six-month slowdown in the progression of some symptoms. What this meant day to day was that there was an ability to continue performing Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as feeding oneself and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) such as getting dressed (click here to read our article on ADLs and IADLs).
The study only showed these benefits in those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, not those in the advanced stages of the disease.
“This is a well done study by a solid research group. 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,” said Carrillo.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s and other studies related to the disease at www.alz.org.