The question: In older people, memory problems are among the first signs that cognitive changes could be Alzheimer’s-related rather than the result of normal aging. Might taking vitamin E slow the progression to outright Alzheimer’s?
This study randomly assigned 769 people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment to take vitamin E (2,000 IU), the Alzheimer’s drug donepezil (Aricept) or a placebo daily. After three years, about 16 percent of the people in all three groups were diagnosed with likely or probable Alzheimer’s.
Who may be affected by these findings? People with the memory problems common during early Alzheimer’s. An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.
Caveats: Pfizer and Eisai, which market Aricept, helped fund the study; eight of the authors reported receiving fees from the companies. DSM Nutritional Products donated the vitamin E used in the study. A study published online in November found that taking more than 400 IU a day of vitamin E for four to five years increased the risk of death by about 5 percent.
Bottom line: Older people who show signs of cognitive impairment may want to talk with a doctor about an appropriate treatment; those taking vitamin E in hopes of preventing Alzheimer’s may want to discuss the possible effects of this vitamin with a doctor.
Find this study: June 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine; article available now at www.nejm.org.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease at www.alz.organdwww.nia.nih.gov.
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