January 10. 2014
THE QUESTION Because no cure for Alzheimer’s exists, preventing or delaying its symptoms and progression has become the focus for those with the memory-robbing disorder. Might taking a large daily dose of Vitamin E help?
THIS STUDY involved 613 people, nearly all men, who averaged 79 years old and had mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. All participants were taking a cholinesterase inhibitor, a commonly prescribed Alzheimer’s drug (donepezil, galantamine or rivastigmine). They were randomly assigned to one of four daily treatments: Vitamin E (2,000 international units); the Alzheimer’s drug memantine (20 milligrams); both Vitamin E and memantine; or placebos. After a little more than two years, standardized scales measuring cognitive and functional abilities showed an overall decline, on average, among all participants. Little difference was noted for cognition and memory, but the deterioration in functional abilities (being able to do basic daily tasks) was slower among people taking only Vitamin E: 19 percent slower than for the placebo group, equal to about a six-month delay in progression of the disease. Disease progression was not slowed for people taking memantine, with or without Vitamin E. Those taking Vitamin E also required about two fewer hours a day of help from caregivers than did the others.