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Study: 2,000 IUs of vitamin E daily effective in slowing functional decline in AD patients

CHICAGO — Among patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease, a daily dosage of 2,000 IUs of vitamin E, compared to placebo, was effective in slowing functional decline and in reducing caregiver time in assisting patients, according to a study that appeared in the Jan. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"These results point to a powerful role of integrating proper nutrition into disease management, and provide hope for Alzheimer’s patients and their care givers," saidd Duffy MacKay, VP scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "However, the dietary supplement industry should be reminded that dietary supplements cannot be marketed or sold to consumers as a disease treatment, and we recommend that those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease rely on the advice of a trusted doctor as to the appropriate treatment plan. Self-dosing at the levels studied in this trial are not recommended."

Alpha tocopherol, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, has been studied in patients with moderately severe Alzheimer disease and in participants with mild cognitive impairment, but has not been studied in patients with mild to moderate AD. In patients with moderately severe AD, vitamin E was shown to be effective in slowing clinical progression. 

The drug memantine has been shown to be effective in patients with AD and moderately severe dementia, according to background information in the article.

Maurice Dysken of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and colleagues examined the effectiveness and safety of vitamin E, memantine and the combination for treatment of functional decline in patients with mild to moderate AD who were taking an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (a chemical that increases the level and duration of action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine). The trial included 613 patients at 14 Veterans Affairs medical centers. 

Over the average follow-up time of 2.3 years, participants receiving vitamin E had slower functional decline than those receiving placebo, with the annual rate of decline in ADLs reduced by 19%. This treatment effect translates into a clinically meaningful delay in progression in the vitamin E group of 6.2 months. 

Neither memantine nor the combination of vitamin E and memantine showed clinical benefit in this trial.

In addition, caregiver time was reduced by about two hours per day in the vitamin E group.

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