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Study: Vitamin E may help Alzheimer's patients
December 31st, 2013
04:00 PM ET

Study: Vitamin E may help Alzheimer's patients

There is no cure for Alzheimer's, nor is there an effective method of reversing symptoms such as memory loss, disorientation and difficulties in organizing thoughts. But a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests there may be some hope for improvement in these patients, in the form of vitamin E.

The study authors say that this is the first demonstration of vitamin E benefiting Alzheimer's patients with mild to moderate disease. However, they caution that it doesn't prove that the vitamin is always effective and therefore should not be universally recommended.

“This is a well done study by a solid research group," said Maria Carrillo, vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, in a statement. "The results are positive enough to warrant more research to replicate and confirm these findings, but should not change current medical practice. No one should take vitamin E for Alzheimer’s except under the supervision of a physician."

Methods

The trial involved 613 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The subject pool does not reflect the general population, since 97% of participants were male. All but one of them were already taking drugs called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which slows the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms in some people.

Participants were divided into four groups: (1) receive synthetic vitamin E, (2) receive a drug called memantine, (3) receive both vitamin E and memantine, (4) receive a placebo. Memantine is a drug that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for moderate to severe Alzheimer's but, like acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, they don't work for everyone and do not reverse the course of the disease.

To evaluate progress, researchers used a tool called the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study/Activities of Daily Living Inventory, which measures functional ability. Other assessments were also used to look at cognitive outcomes.

Patients were followed for an average of 2.3 years.

Results

Researchers found that participants in the vitamin E-only group had a delay in clinical progression of the disease of 19% over a year, compared with those in the placebo group.  When researchers measured how quickly their Alzheimer's was progressing in terms of daily living activities, those in the vitamin E-only group saw their disease decline 3.15 units less on the testing tool than those receiving placebo. This signifies a loss of independence - for instance, the authors wrote, losing 3 points could mean not being able to dress or bathe oneself independently anymore.

Activities of daily living are rarely shown to improve in clinical trials, so that is a strength of the study, said Dr. Scott Small, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center, who was not involved in this study.

But individuals who took the combination vitamin E and memantine, or memantine alone, did not show average benefits over the placebo group. None of the treatment groups did better than the placebo group on the cognitive tests.

Caveats

Some results don't completely add up, Small said.

For him, the finding that vitamin E by itself showed benefits, but in combination with memantine it did not, is puzzling.  There is also the question of why none of the treatment groups did better than the placebo group in cognitive abilities.

“It is unclear why there were functional but not cognitive benefits of this intervention. The lack of cognitive benefit re-emphasizes the need for replication and confirmation of these results before considering this as a treatment strategy,” Carrillo said.

Vitamin E had been shown in previous research to possibly benefit Alzheimer's patients, but other studies have raised safety concerns. Among them was a 2011 JAMA study that found dietary supplementation with vitamin E in healthy men increases the risk of prostate cancer.

In this new study, vitamin E did not appear to increase the likelihood of mortality. None of the treatments seemed to be unsafe, according to this research, but "the size of the study did not allow us to detect infrequent but potentially significant adverse events," the researchers wrote.

It's important for the study to be replicated, so that the results can be confirmed, but this is a good step toward positively intervening in the disease, Small said.

Conclusions

"I think clinicians will now start considering vitamin E," says Small.  It's something he might consider recommending for some of his patients. But because there is no drug that makes a significant difference in the well-being of Alzheimer's patients, Small adds, doctors must have open discussions with patients about the various strategies that are available, which might or might not work, and have pros and cons associated with them.

"In the future there will be very little discussion when we have a clearer, yes-or-no answer," he said.

Alzheimer's risk before symptoms: Do you want to know?


soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. 时时彩技巧

    vxka02 http://uykuyk.cn

    January 1, 2014 at 05:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • healthierbrain

      Vitamin B is also a brain boosting vitamin besides vitamin E. You can check out my blog regarding if you want to know more about Vitamin B. http://healthierbrain.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/fearing-dementia-during-old-agevitamin-b-might-be-the-solution/

      January 15, 2014 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
  2. Conscience of a Conservative

    There have been reports for some time that a fish diet is helpful for Alzheimers patients. Fatty fish such as salmon not only have omega 3 but also contain vitamin e. Studies like this might mistakenly lead people to go out and pile up on expensive vitamins instead of eating the right foods. Even CNN has recently posted reports about the dubious benefits of taking vitamins.

    January 1, 2014 at 06:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tarzan

      That's right. It's ironic to say Vitamin E is that good given the recently-concluded study that says vitamins are ineffective.

      January 1, 2014 at 22:24 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      No, it isn't. Vitamin SUPPLEMENTS was the subject of the report. Not vitamins in general, dumbazz. Learn the difference.

      January 1, 2014 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
    • Grumpster

      Fish oil has been linked to cancer for men.

      January 2, 2014 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      And then taking too many Omega 3's leads to Prostate Cancer in men.

      January 3, 2014 at 12:31 | Report abuse |
  3. Luke B

    Vitamin E as tocopherols or tocotrienols? I'm guessing the common tocopherols found in supplements as nothing is said, but that seems to be contrary to the many studies on tocopherols that have been published with negative results.

    January 1, 2014 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sunny

      It was alpha-tocopherol, Luke. And I would have liked to see some discussion of how this study compared to the MANY other clinical trials on Vitamin E, with or without other treatments, involving everything from MCI to later-stage Alzheimer's. Results have been conflicting ... there is even some evidence that high doses of Vitamin E can be harmful. Results with memantine also appear to conflict with many other studies.

      January 1, 2014 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
  4. Squealy

    Take a break, wertwert345345345

    January 1, 2014 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      I don't know why this wert wart is allowed to post. Is nobody bothering to monitor the "abuse" reports? Why is this fvckwit allowed to continue to disrupt?

      January 1, 2014 at 18:53 | Report abuse |
  5. caliScot

    The AMA and their groupies in the press have been telling us for years that Vit E causes brain tumors, and vitamins are useless. Coffee, butter, lately -meat, chocolate, etc., now are found to be beneficial I've been taking large doses of Vit E, C, and Selenium (200 mcg) for years. I'm healthy.

    January 1, 2014 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      And so what? What matters isn't anecdotes or outliers. It's the statistical evidence that counts.

      January 1, 2014 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Although this study may prove to be of great value......the big question is .....who funded it?.....and their ties to the multimillion dollar food and health supplement industry.

      January 1, 2014 at 21:42 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      No, that isn't the "big question," tony. The question is whether the study was well done. Doesn't matter where the money for it originated, except to conspiracy theorists, who are too stupid to bother with.

      January 1, 2014 at 23:07 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      @nobody......being naive is one thing....sharing it is another. Of course money buys bias. The question is how much?

      January 2, 2014 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      That's not what you stated. Just because a study was funded by a particular concern does not negate the results. Unless you're another nutty conspiracy theorist who thinks everyone's out to get you.

      Pharmaceutical companies are a business. They spend money researching new drugs. That doesn't mean they're falsifying data.

      January 2, 2014 at 22:06 | Report abuse |
  6. EdL

    I guess it goes without saying, but if Vitamin E may help Alzheimers it also may not help Alzheimers.

    January 1, 2014 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sylvia

    This is hardly a new idea. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers sixteen years ago and her doctor recommended Vitamin E
    at that time, along with Aricept.

    January 1, 2014 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. John

    Wait....CNN just published an article a couple days ago saying Vitamins are bad for you......Now they're good??? Make up your mind and stop confusing us!!!!!!!!

    January 2, 2014 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      That's not what the article said. Vitamins supplements MAY not be effective, but vitamins themselves may BE effective. There's a difference.

      January 2, 2014 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
    • deemoots

      Science isn't very definitive. Results can be skewed one way or another. I multivitamin potency is unknown. If you go to alernative health site( Natural news, life extension, Mercola) you will find lots of positive studies on vitamin and superfoods.The most buzz I have heard is coconut oil taken three times a day

      January 5, 2014 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
    • Malcom

      Mercola? Are you kidding? Mercola is a complete charlatan. He is a quack.

      January 5, 2014 at 12:45 | Report abuse |
  9. A swift kick to the head "MAY" help, too

    Then again – it "MAY" not.

    January 2, 2014 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Gayle63

    Wasn't it just last week we were told taking vitamins was useless? Good grief, and the medical industry wonders why people don't listen anymore...

    January 2, 2014 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • deemoots

      One thing I hate about the reporting on these studies, The dosage is almost never mentioned. Also why use synthetic vitamin E? Which is generally considered to be inferior

      January 5, 2014 at 07:21 | Report abuse |
  11. Grumpster

    Now, if I could only remember to take it.

    January 2, 2014 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Grumpster

    WertWert is both on LinkedIn and YouTube if you just look that up on Google...you can find out just what a nincompoop Werthead is.

    January 2, 2014 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      I doubt anyone needs any more evidence of that than we already have here, but thanks, Grumpster. Why isn't anyone removing the moron's posts?

      January 2, 2014 at 22:08 | Report abuse |
  13. Fish

    Now this makes sense, many elders have trouble with their digestion thus avoid certain foods plus certain foods are associated with youth. Now nuts are often shunned by seniors with digestion issues and many senior may abandon eating Spinach as their children are grown and most folks don't eat spinach unless they can torment their kids!!! The two primary sources of Vitamin E are nuts and spinach!!! Also shellfish and squash!!! I go by the scientific method if Wall-Mart is hawking it it must be a new breakthrough else they wouldn't care. Beat the rush everyone the AMA has begun a study take a vitamin E every morning and try to beat this thing!!!

    January 14, 2014 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jellypharmacy

    Great post Elizabeth..! You mention all good points its very helpful for all of us and I say all others also follow these points....Will wait for more such information....

    January 14, 2014 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. healthierbrain

    Reblogged this on healthierbrain.

    January 15, 2014 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. healthierbrain

    Vitamin B is also a brain boosting vitamin besides vitamin E. You can check out my blog regarding if you want to know more about Vitamin B. http://healthierbrain.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/fearing-dementia-during-old-agevitamin-b-might-be-the-solution/

    January 15, 2014 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. okorowhite

    Visit http://wite1.blogspot.com

    January 24, 2014 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. ;jij9ij9i

    Nobody you know

    That's not what the article said. Vitamins supplements MAY not be effective, but vitamins themselves may BE effective. There's a difference.

    January 2, 2014 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
    deemoots

    Science isn't very definitive. Results can be skewed one way or another. I multivitamin potency is unknown. If you go to alernative health site( Natural news, life extension, Mercola) you will find lots of positive studies on vitamin and superfoods.The most buzz I have heard is coconut oil taken three times a day

    January 5, 2014 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
    Malcom

    Mercola? Are you kidding? Mercola is a complete charlatan. He is a quack.

    January 5, 2014 at 12:45 | Report abuse |
    A swift kick to the head "MAY" help, too

    Then again – it "MAY" not.

    January 2, 2014 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    Gayle63

    Wasn't it just last week we were told taking vitamins was useless? Good grief, and the medical industry wonders why people don't listen anymore...

    January 2, 2014 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    deemoots

    One thing I hate about the reporting on these studies, The dosage is almost never mentioned. Also why use synthetic vitamin E? Which is generally considered to be inferior

    January 5, 2014 at 07:21 | Report abuse |
    Grumpster

    Now, if I could only remember to take it.

    January 2, 2014 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    Grumpster

    WertWert is both on LinkedIn and YouTube if you just look that up on Google...you can find out just what a nincompoop Werthead is.

    January 2, 2014 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    Nobody you know

    I doubt anyone needs any more evidence of that than we already have here, but thanks, Grumpster. Why isn't anyone removing the moron's posts?

    January 2, 2014 at 22:08 | Report abuse |
    Fish

    Now this makes sense, many elders have trouble with their digestion thus avoid certain foods plus certain foods are associated with youth. Now nuts are often shunned by seniors with digestion issues and many senior may abandon eating Spinach as their children are grown and most folks don't eat spinach unless they can torment their kids!!! The two primary sources of Vitamin E are nuts and spinach!!! Also shellfish and squash!!! I go by the scientific method if Wall-Mart is hawking it it must be a new breakthrough else they wouldn't care. Beat the rush everyone the AMA has begun a study take a vitamin E every morning and try to beat this thing!!!

    January 14, 2014 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    jellypharmacy

    Great post Elizabeth..! You mention all good points its very helpful for all of us and I say all others also follow these points....Will wait for more such information....

    January 14, 2014 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    healthierbrain

    Reblogged this on healthierbrain.

    January 15, 2014 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    healthierbrain

    Vitamin B is also a brain boosting vitamin besides vitamin E. You can check out my blog regarding if you want to know more about Vitamin B. http://healthierbrain.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/fearing-dementia-during-old-agevitamin-b-might-be-the-solution/

    January 15, 2014 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    okorowhite

    Visit http://wite1.blogspot.com

    January 24, 2014 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    Grumpster

    Wetwert the 'tard.

    January 2, 2014 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 21, 2014 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Pami

    I am Vitamin E Users for skin healing and anti aging .. it seems to really have a natural appeal. I dont know about use for the memory but I would say anything natural and not full of cellulose and other strange chemical mixtures cant be bad for you.. If you look up Holistic medicine it will give a large variety of natural herbs and supplements to help memory Vitamin E is not one of those.. I dont think Modern medicine Drs understand natural holistic treatments and insurers sure hate it at all..they dont cover one single thing that is HEALTHY

    April 8, 2014 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Grumpster

    Wetwert the 'tard.

    January 2, 2014 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.