Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5.1 million older Americans. It is a deteriorating disease of the brain that results from the oxidative damage seen in aging. Whether you will develop Alzheimer’s depends on several things that include lifestyle (smoking, alcohol use, exercise, high saturated fat diet); environmental toxin exposures and general health (people with arteriosclerotic heart disease usually also develop Alzheimer’s).
Many health researchers have proposed a diet high in antioxidants to fight the free radical damage that can occur with age. Free radicals can damage DNA and hasten the onset of aging and the diseases that accompany it, like Alzheimer’s. Yet, new research shows that antioxidants may not only be preventative for developing Alzheimer’s, but they may also play a big part in treating the condition – especially antioxidant vitamins E and C. Here’s the good news that these studies have shown:
Vitamin E: Researchers at Icahn School of Medicine out of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Veterans Administration Medical Centers have found that 2,000 IU/daily of Vitamin E could delay onset of functional decline by 19% per year in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer disease.
Functional decline is defined as doing activities of daily living such as shopping, making meals, traveling, getting around independently, home chores, etc. The findings came out of a double-blind randomized trial on 613 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Its focus was to measure the effects of alpha-tocopherol type Vitamin E and memantine, a drug currently used in treating both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases.
The researchers are excited about the findings of Vitamin E as an adjunct treatment strategy as it is easy to obtain over-the-counter and is relatively inexpensive. One of the researchers on this study, Mary Sano, Ph.D., previously ran a study on the effects of Vitamin E on moderately severe Alzheimer’s patients. The vitamin was found to have slowed progression of the disease in this group of patients as well.
Vitamin C: Long known for its immune system boosting and disease-fighting properties, researchers at Lund University in Sweden wanted to know how antioxidant Vitamin C might work in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by sticky protein-based “amyloid” plaques that build up on the brain. These plaques are what cause the nerve cell death in the brain that result in the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease – notably, the loss of memory.
The study looked at what effect Vitamin C may have on these plaques. The researchers were amazed to find that Vitamin C actually dissolves these toxic protein plaques. And, that the Vitamin C did not need to come from fresh fruit – it could come from common refrigerated juices. One of the researchers in the study, Katrin Mani, explained the significance of the findings, “The notion that vitamin C can have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease is controversial, but our results open up new opportunities for research into Alzheimer’s and the possibilities offered by vitamin C.”