High doses of vitamin E could help people with Alzheimer's retain their independence for longer, claim researchers. A new trial showed that daily supplements slowed the functional decline of patients by around six months.
It meant they could do everyday activities such as cooking, washing and shopping for longer than those who did not take a dose. The benefits were also felt by those looking after them as time spent in caring duties dropped by two hours a day.
Professor Kenneth Davis, a US expert on brain disease who was involved in the study, said the trial showed that vitamin E should be offered to patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s.
The US researchers, led by Dr Maurice Dysken, treated 613 patients, mostly men, with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. All of them were already receiving medication for their symptoms.
One group of 152 patients received a daily dose of 2,000 international units – which equates to more than 1,300mg – of alpha tocopherol, a form of vitamin E.
Others received either a placebo pill, the Alzheimer’s drug memantine, or a combination of vitamin E and memantine.
Over a period of 2.3 years, patients who took the supplements alone had an annual 19 per cent reduction in the extent to which Alzheimer’s affected their daily lives compared with the placebo group.
The effect amounted to a ‘clinically meaningful’ delay of 6.2 months in a worsening ability to deal with daily activities such as shopping, preparing meals and travelling, says a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Neither the drug nor a combination of memantine and vitamin E were as beneficial.
The annual death rate for supplement users was 7.3 per cent compared with 9.4 per cent for those taking a placebo. The change in functional decline was assessed using an internationally recognised scale that rates patients from zero to 78.
Compared with those taking vitamin E, the group taking dummy pills lost three or more units on average.
‘A loss of this magnitude could translate into either the complete loss of being able to dress or bath independently, for example,’ said Dr Dysken, who described the supplement as a cost-effective treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that slows down processes that damage cells. The upper ‘safe’ limit is between 700 and 800mg a day, while those in the study took almost twice as much.
Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said it was important for patients to seek advice from their doctor before considering taking supplements.
‘In this instance, the dosage of vitamin E taken by participants was much higher than the recommended daily allowance and was at a level that could be significantly harmful for some,’ he said.
Previous Vitamin E studies showing a detrimental health effect did not use a natural form of Vitamin E, but a synthetic form called DL-Alpha-Tocopherol. We would NOT recommend using ANY vitamin E products containing any synthetic (DL-Alpha) Vitamin E.
At Abaco Health, we only sell natural forms of Vitamin E.
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