Vitamin E: A Proven Alzheimer’s Breakthrough


The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association welcomed the new year by publishing what will surely become a landmark study. Researchers announced the results of a clinical trial of vitamin E in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease. Their findings may well revolutionize our approach to treating Alzheimer's, a disease affecting more than 5.4 million Americans.

The study looked at the effect of dietary supplementation using 2,000 international units (IU) of nonprescription vitamin E daily in a large group of elderly Alzheimer's patients and compared their results over an average of around 2.3 years to similar patients who received a placebo, a pharmaceutical (memantine), or a combination of memantine along with vitamin E.

The best results were found in the people who received the vitamin E alone. In these individuals, the annual rate of decline in functional performance was slowed by approximately 20 percent. Functional performance includes important day-to-day tasks such as preparing meals, bathing, shopping and eating.

While these results are far from representing a cure for Alzheimer's, they nonetheless show that vitamin E allowed people with Alzheimer's to get by with less help from caregivers and maintain their independence longer than those who were given the Alzheimer's drug memantine, either alone or in combination with vitamin E.

Why vitamin E might be beneficial

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, meaning it protects tissues against the damaging effects of free radicals, chemicals which are produced in the body as a normal part of metabolism.

Earlier research has indicated an excess of free radical activity in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer's. Researchers are focusing on vitamin E's antioxidant activity as a possible explanation of its effectiveness in treating those with the disease.

While the dosage of vitamin E used in this study far exceeds the government's recommended dose for healthy adults (22.4 IU daily), no major health consequences were reported in those just taking the vitamin E. In fact, the only serious problems in the study were reported in those who were given memantine.

A neurologist's perspective

As a practicing neurologist treating Alzheimer's patients each day, I find the results of this study to be extremely encouraging. Vitamin E is widely available, doesn't require a prescription, and is now proven to slow the progression of this devastating disease.

Vitamin E can interact with medications including the blood thinner warfarin, medications used in chemotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs. So it's a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before starting vitamin E or any nutritional supplement.

Dr. David Perlmutter

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David Perlmutter, M.D., is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. He received the 2002 Linus Pauling Award and the 2010 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American College of Nutrition. He also authored the #1 New York Times best seller Grain Brain, and serves as medical advisor to the Dr. Oz Show.

David Perlmutter MD

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this is very encouraging, as my mom suffers from early stages of dementia. her short-term memory is very poor and if this can help, great! i'll discuss it with her physician. thank you!
I had my mother start the larger dose OTC caplets. She said she won't take them anymore. I think they were too large to swallow comfortably. Maybe one of the smaller ones would help and not be so hard to swallow. I know we won't see improvement, but it would be good to slow the loss of mental faculties. My hope is that my mother's mind holds out as long as her body does.
I have my mum on vitamin E now, I guess it will be a while to gauge if it is beneficial ..but my view is it will most probably be more beneficial than harmful!
My mum is in her 60s so worth a try for support in every day tasks.