Antioxidants May Slow Alzheimer's

They’re already being studied for their benefits in cancer and heart disease. Now, a recent study suggests that two specific antioxidants, vitamin E and a drug called selegiline, may slow the progression of important symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by about seven months.

In a two-year study of 341 people with moderately severe Alzheimer’s, two groups given either 10 milligrams (mg) of selegiline (brand name Eldepryl, currently being used to treat Parkinson’s disease) or 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin E daily delayed the loss of the ability to perform daily activities, the progression of severe dementia, and institutionalization (New England Journal of Medicine, April 24, 1997).

“We’re excited about these results because there are so few options available for people with more severe cases of Alzheimer’s,” says David Bennett, MD, associate director of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, one of the sites for the study trials. “The benefits of these treatments are small but real — and people can ask for them right now.”

Neither selegiline nor vitamin E improved memory or cognitive ability in this study. But two drugs — tacrine (Cognex) and donepezil (Aricept) — are currently being used to treat those symptoms in mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s.

Final note: The doses of vitamin E used in this trial were very high –almost 70 times greater than the current RDA of 30 IU. It is essential that doses of this sort be monitored by a physician for side effects, as well as any progress.

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