The ongoing discussion of whether vitamin E if sufficient enough in slowing the progress of Alzheimer's disease, has newer scientific evidence. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that a high dosage of this compound can moderately slow cognitive decline in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Does this mean that newly diagnosed patients should start taking bigger amounts of this vitamin? According to experts it is early to say, but results are encouraging.
The experiment was done on 613 American veterans (beneficiaries of a government health insurance that covers all medical expenses) diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia and treated with cholinesterase inhibitors (the drug of choice in early stages of the disease, at least in the United States). The study demonstrates that the administration of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) versus placebo delayed clinical progression of Alzheimer's by 19% in patients with mild stages, resulting in a delay of 6,2 months on the cognitive decline.
The vitamin E is usually found in vegetable seeds and nuts but is also sold in gel tablets
and/or multivitamin supplements
. The quantity of vitamin E used in the study, 2000 international units per day (IU/d), is 100 times the recommended daily dose of this nutrient. Therefore reaching a point in which it could be prescribed as a drug.
The study led by a researcher at Yale university, Peter Guarino is threefold: to demonstrate the safety of vitamin E, to study the effectiveness of a drug approved for advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease in the earliest stages and whether vitamin E slows cognitive decline in these patients. According to the research results, the authors show that the product is safe, reject that the Alzheimer's drug (memantine) be extended to very early stages of the disease and showed some efficacy of vitamin E.
The author of the meta-analysis that caused vitamin E studies to lessen was Eliseo Guallar from the Epidemiology Department at John Hopkins University. He claims that there has been previous studies of vitamin E in patients with this disease that have been null. However, he recognized that this work shows a "small benefit" in Alzheimer's patients who just received vitamin E.
But to Guallar it is precisely there where the issue of the study lies. In it, the 613 veterans were divided in four groups; only one was assigned to memantine, another only vitamin E, a third, a combination of drugs and multivitamin supplements while the fourth group only took placebo. The curious thing is that the beneficial effect that was observed in the vitamin E group was not observed in the memantine group. It's something the study authors mentioned, but are not able to explain it; except to say that it was possible the memantine interferes with the alpha-tocopherol; it is difficult to postulate a mechanism to explain it. He also considers that this data "raises suspicions that the results depend on some random variability, which is expected in this not so large study (about 140 participants per group)".
So, Alzheimer's specialists do not know what could happen from now on. "It is a study that will generate much deserved debates", says Guallar, and points out that technically, subjects who took vitamin E were better and took longer to require full assistance. Therefore, the expert believes that "there will be a high vitamin E demand". Although this will probably take time to clarify, in the long run it will be a personal decision between doctor and patient.
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