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Antioxidants help prevent cognitive decline

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Recent research has shown that a high intake of vitamin C and vitamin E helps prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease and that very high doses of vitamin E delay the progression of the disease. Researchers at Harvard Medical School now report that vitamins C and E also help prevent cognitive impairment in advanced age. Their study involved 14,968 female nurses aged 70 to 79 years who had been enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study in 1976. The nurses had completed dietary surveys (including vitamin use) every 2 years since 1980. Between 1995 and 2000 the nurses participated in a telephone interview to determine their mental state and cognitive function (ability to learn, think and remember).

The researchers found that women who supplemented with vitamins C and E and had done so for 10 years or more scored significantly higher on the cognitive test than did nurses who had not supplemented or had supplemented for less than 10 years. The difference in score would correspond to an age difference of 1 to 2 years. In other words, long-term supplement users had a cognitive function equivalent to nurses 1 or 2 years younger. Just taking vitamin E or vitamin C on its own was associated with much less benefit indicting that the combination is needed for optimum results.
Grodstein, Francine, et al. High-dose antioxidant supplements and cognitive function in community-dwelling elderly women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 77, April 2003, pp. 975-84
Haan, Mary N. Can vitamin supplements prevent cognitive decline and dementia in old age? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 77, April 2003, pp. 762-63 (editorial)

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