Two recent studies have looked into the effects that vitamins and minerals may have on brain function including the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In the first, Canadian researchers gave 96 men and women, 65 years or older, a placebo or a vitamin and mineral supplement for one year.
At the end of the study researchers measured various aspects of cognitive function, including short and long-term memory, abstract thinking, problem-solving and attention span. They found that, of the 86 patients who completed the study, those who took the supplement showed a significant improvement in all cognitive function tests, apart from long-term memory. As a result of these positive results, researchers concluded that supplementing with vitamins and trace minerals could improve quality of life and mental sharpness in older people, and even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
In a second study at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, researchers looked at the relationship between antioxidant supplementation and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A total of 5,395 healthy adults, 55 years or older, were monitored at various points through a 10-year period. During this time, 197 participants developed dementia, 146 of those with Alzheimer’s. Researchers report that some of the risk factors associated with the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s were alcohol intake, smoking, artery plaque and a low intake of antioxidants. A high intake of the antioxidant vitamins C and E was associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They add that supplementing with vitamins E, C and beta-carotene was particularly important for smokers.
Sources: JAMA 2002;287:3223-3229; Nutrition 2001 Sep;17(9):709-12