Alzheimer’s and Vitamin E: Vitamin/drug combo appears to slow progression

Combining vitamin E and a drug used to treat mild to moderate dementia may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reports. Researchers at Ohio State University found that after just a year of treatment with vitamin E and the drug donepezil (Aricept), people with Alzheimer’s disease performed much better on tests of cognitive ability than did people who hadn’t taken either substance.

“There were notable cognitive differences even after three years of combined therapy,” said David Beversdorf, the study’s senior author. “It slowed down the cognitive decline that characterizes the disease.”

Researchers studied 40 patients with Alzheimer’s disease who took daily doses of both vitamin E and donepezil. The participants also took a cognitive abilities test each year during the three-year study. Their annual test scores were compared to the scores of Alzheimer’s patients who took the same kind of test prior to 1996 – before donepezil and similar drugs were available, and also before vitamin E was touted as possibly having a role in disease prevention and progression. Vitamin E is thought to slow the progression of dementia by preventing free radical damage in the brain.

After the first year, the decline in test scores of the CERAD group was nearly three times higher than the decline in scores of the treated group. By the study’s third year, the decline in test scores of the CERAD patients was nearly one-and-a-half times higher than the decline in scores of the comparable treated group.

“It appears that long-term treatment with both vitamin E and donepezil has a notable impact on retaining mental function in patients with Alzheimer’s,” Beversdorf said.

Ohio State University, Aug 27, 2003