Warding Off Alzheimer's Disease

Have you been taking vitamin E supplements to keep your brain safe from Alzheimer's disease? The newest research suggests a different tack: get your vitamin E from dietary sources like sunflower seeds and spinach instead of from supplements. This study is fresh off the presses, having been printed up in the Archives of Neurology. The gist of the study is that getting lots of vitamin E in your diet and not from a jar purchased at the pharmacy, will offer you significant protection against Alzheimer's.

Degenerative Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative, progressive brain disease that is believed to develop years or decades before symptoms such as memory loss begin. Experts have long believed that Alzheimer's is due at least in part to oxidative stress. This is cell damage caused by something called free radicals.

Free radicals are oxygen molecules that are the byproducts of air pollution, cigarette smoke, and sun exposure. The brain is known to be quite susceptible to the damage caused by these free radicals for three reasons: the brain's high demand for oxygen, the brain's generous number of fatty membranes that are vulnerable to oxidation, and the weakness of the brain's ability to defend against oxidants.

Under laboratory conditions, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E have been demonstrated to counteract the deleterious effects of free radicals. It has therefore been assumed that these vitamins might protect the brain cells from damage due to oxidation. There has even been evidence that these antioxidants may delay the early stages of dementia.

Protein Hallmark

Vitamin E has also demonstrated its ability to diminish the harmful effects of beta-amyloid, a protein that is the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. In Alzheimer's this protein tends to accumulate in clumps within the brain.

In this most current study, known as the Rotterdam Study, scientists from the Netherlands observed 5,395 men and women in good health, aged 55 and up for a decade to discover how vitamin E, beta carotene, vitamin C, and flavonoids related to the development of dementia over the long term. By the end of the study, 465 participants were found to have developed dementia. Of this number, 78% were found to have Alzheimer's as the cause of their dementia symptoms. Those patients with the most vitamin E in their diets cut their risk for the disease by 26%.

On the other hand, some clinical trials have found that vitamin E in supplement form seems to have no benefit as a preventative for developing Alzheimer's disease.

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