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Vitamin E helps prevent Alzheimer's disease

IHN logo BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a rapidly growing health problem in Europe and North America. The prevalence of AD is now 3% in persons aged 65 years rising to almost 50% in those over 85 years. The current cost to the economy of AD is estimated to be over $100 billion per year and is exceeded only by the cost of heart disease and cancer. AD is characterized by neuronal degeneration and the presence of neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques in the brain. There is now considerable evidence that inflammation and oxidative stress are crucial elements in the development of AD.

Vitamin E is highly effective in combating both oxidative stress and inflammation. A recent study carried out in the Netherlands found that people with a high intake of vitamin E from food (more than 15.5 mg/day) were 43% less likely to develop AD than were people with a low intake. Supplementing with vitamin E, on the other hand, did not decrease the risk of developing AD. Another study concluded that a high dietary intake of vitamin C and vitamin E was associated with a reduced risk of AD, especially among smokers.

Vitamin-E is not only a powerful antioxidant, but is also involved in cellular signaling and transcriptional regulation and has been shown to inhibit key events in inflammation. These latter properties, however, would appear to be exhibited only by natural but not by synthetic vitamin E.
Martin, Antonio. Antioxidant vitamins E and C and risk of Alzheimer's disease. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 61, February 2003, pp. 69-79
Editor's comment: The failure of vitamin E supplements to prevent AD could be due to either or both of two factors:

  • synthetic rather than natural vitamin E was used in the trials;
  • it is gamma-tocopherol (the form of vitamin E found in most foods) that is beneficial and not alpha- tocopherol (the form of vitamin E found in most supplements).

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