First we heard that vitamin E helps, and then we heard that it does not help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.1 The newest research suggests that a daily dose of 2000 IU per day of vitamin E might help to slow functional decline for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, and that it could help reduce the amount of care these patients require by two hours a day.
Most studies of vitamin E, including this new one, have focused on alpha-tocopherol, a synthetic form of vitamin E. This is extremely significant because in its natural form vitamin E consists of many compounds—including d-alpha tocopherol, high gamma tocopherol, mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols—that have been proven safe and beneficial. If the natural form of vitamin E had been used in this study, the outcome might have been even better. And if it had been used in the countless studies done over the years, many of which were negative, the results might have been different.
In the current study, researchers followed 613 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, all of whom were taking an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne). Of these patients, 155 received 20 mg a day of memantine - a class of drugs used to treat Alzheimer's - while 152 patients received 2,000 international units a day (IU/day) of vitamin E, 154 received a combination of both and 152 took a placebo. The patients who took the vitamin E had a 19% reduction in their functional decline, compared with the patients who received the placebo. The researchers said that this was equivalent to approximately 6.2 months in time over the 2.3 year follow-up period.
They also noted that memantine and a combination of both memantine and vitamin E demonstrated no clinical benefit for the patients.
The researchers pointed out that functional decline as a result of Alzheimer's disease is increasingly recognized as having a significant impact on a patient quality of life, as well as putting a strain on social and economic costs. But they said their findings suggest that vitamin E could combat these factors.
What you should know
Vitamin E is naturally found in a variety of foods including eggs, fortified cereals, meat, nuts, poultry, some fruits and vegetables (green, leafy vegetables, avocados, asparagus, kiwi, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, mangos, tomatoes, papayas), wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oils.
Taking a high dosage of alpha-tocopherol alone has been shown to deplete the body of other forms of vitamin E, which are much more powerful antioxidants and have been proven to have unique health properties. And taking a single form of vitamin E, such as synthetic alpha-tocopherol, denies the very fact that nature offers seven different forms of tocopherols and tocotrienols for a reason.
In order to get the full protective benefits of vitamin E, it's important to make sure you're taking a supplement that contains a full spectrum of vitamin E compounds—including d-alpha tocopherol, high gamma tocopherol, mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols.
The bottom line is this: Based on the large body of scientific evidence that's been published over the past several decades, we should all be taking a wholesome full spectrum vitamin E … because full spectrum vitamin E is safe and good for your heart, your brain, your overall health, and as a protectant against cancer and degenerative diseases.
1. Isaac MG, Quinn R, Tabet N. “Vitamin E for Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jul 16;(3):CD002854. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002854.pub2.
2. Dysken Mw, et al. “Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer disease: the TEAM-AD VA cooperative randomized trial.” JAMA. 2014 Jan 1;311(1):33-44. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.282834.