International Health News

Memory loss linked to vitamin E deficiency

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA. Oxidative stress is a major cause of accelerated aging and has been clearly implicated in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and the carotenoids have been shown to effectively combat oxidative stress. A team of researchers from Indiana University now report that oxidative stress may also be involved in memory loss and that older people with high vitamin E levels are less likely to suffer from memory loss than are people with low levels. Their study involved 4809 older people (aged 60 years and over) and was part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) carried out between 1988 and 1994. All participants were given a test aimed at detecting memory loss (delayed word recall and delayed story recall) and also provided blood samples for analysis of vitamins A, C and E, selenium, carotenoids, folate, calcium, iron, and cholesterol. Overall, 7 per cent of the participants were found to have poor memory. Non-Hispanic blacks had the highest prevalence of poor memory while non-Hispanic whites had the lowest. Higher age, lower level of education, low family income (less than $20,000/year) and not enough to eat were all associated with a higher incidence of memory loss. Blood serum levels of selenium, vitamin A and vitamin C, and carotenoids (per unit of cholesterol) were not associated with poor memory. There was, however, a clear correlation between vitamin E level (per unit of cholesterol) and memory loss. Participants with vitamin E levels below 4.8 had a 175 per cent higher incidence of memory loss than did participants with a level above 7.2. It is worth noting that high vitamin E levels were most prevalent among non- Hispanic whites and among those taking vitamin supplements. Nevertheless, even after adjusting for all other pertinent risk factors it was clear that people with a high vitamin E level were significantly less likely to suffer from memory loss.
Perkins, Anthony J, et al. Association of antioxidants with memory in a multiethnic elderly sample using the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 150, July 1, 1999, pp. 37-44

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