A new study, presented at the annual Academy of Neurology meeting in Chicago this month suggests that Vitamin E, particularly when combined with a cholinesterase inhibitor, extends the lifetimes of Alzheimer’s sufferers by a significant amount.
The researchers analyzed the survival rates of 847 people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The majority of the patients in the study were women and the average age of participants was 74 years.
Around two-thirds of the patients took 1,000 international units (IU) of Vitamin E a day combined with a cholinesterase inhibitor. Less than 10% took vitamin E alone and 15% of the patients took no Vitamin E. The researchers found that those who took Vitamin E extended their survival times by around 26% compared to those who did not take Vitamin E. Interestingly the cholinesterase inhibitor offered no survival benefit when used alone.
The study also suggested that a combination of both Vitamin E and the cholinesterase inhibitor may be more beneficial than either treatment by itself as the greatest improvement in survival time came in the group using both agents.
A daily dose of 1,000 IU of Vitamin E is around 50 times the recommended daily intake of 20 IU. Concerns had been raised that very high doses of vitamin E may actually increase increase mortality, particularly in the elderly, however this does not appear to be the case for those with Alzheimer’s disease. The current upper safety limit for Vitamin E is 1,500 IU per day in the United States and 800 IU in the United Kingdom.
According to Valory Palik, one of the studies co-authors, “[...] we did not find evidence that high doses of vitamin E reduced survival. In fact, patients who took vitamin E seemed to live longer, particularly when they took it in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor.”
Natural sources of Vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, tomato sauce, peanut butter, whole grain breads, olives, papaya, blueberries, avocados, eggs, tuna, and most leafy green vegetables.
Cholinesterase inhibitors try to increase levels of acetylcholine in the brain by reducing the function of cholinesterase enzymes which break down the chemical acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in brain function and depleted supplies of acetylcholine are often found in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
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