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How Vitamins and Supplements Positively Impact Alzheimer's Patients

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How Vitamins and Supplements Positively Impact Alzheimer's Patients

Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain and is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. A study published last month in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that vitamin E supplements may slow functional decline in individuals suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. The randomized clinical trial was conducted at 14 Veterans Affairs medical centers and assessed the effect of vitamin E alone or in conjunction with Memantine (Namenda) on functional decline in 613 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is a prescription medication to treat memory loss and mental changes resulting from Alzheimer’s disease.

At the start of the study, all of the participants were on medication to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease—predominately Aricept (65 percent) or Razadyne (32 percent). The patients were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups and followed for an average of 2.3 years. Group I received 2,000 IU of vitamin E per day; Group II received 20 mg of Memantine; Group III received both vitamin E and Memantine; and Group IIII received a placebo.

Researchers used two well-known tests to assess patients at program start and end. The Alzheimer’s Disease and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), tests cognitive function, orientation, registration, attention, and calculation, recall and language. Qualified participants scored between 12 and 26, out of a possible 30 points, with an average score of 21. The other assessment tool used was the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study/Activities of Daily Living (ADCS-ADL). The ADCS-ADL is a 15-minute test that determines a participant’s ability to handle a variety of self-care activities, including eating, bathing, grooming, ability to engage or follow in conversation, etc. The average score at baseline was 56.8. 

During follow-up, researchers found that patients taking vitamin E alone were found to have significantly slower functional decline than those taking the placebo, with an average decline on the ADCS-ADL inventory of 3.15. Translating this to real-life, the patients taking 2,000 IU vitamin E had a “clinically meaningful” delay in progression of functional decline of 6.2 months compared to the patients on the placebo. Researchers also found that time required by caregivers increased least in the vitamin E group. Interestingly, the participants taking vitamin E and the prescription Memantine, did not see this slowed decline.

An unfortunate downfall of the study is that 20 percent of the patients died during the trial. The study was also overwhelmingly male; and medicine adherence was moderate. This said, vitamin E could be helpful to improve functional outcomes, such as activities of daily living, for all levels of Alzheimer’s disease, starting with mild stages. Nuts, seeds and vegetable oils are among the best sources of vitamin E, although green, leafy vegetables and fortified cereals also contain significant levels of vitamin E. Within Cooper Complete, Basic One and Original Cooper Complete contain 200 IU vitamin E, while Elite Athlete contains 800 IU.

So what can individuals who don’t have Alzheimer’s disease do to reduce their disease risk? Prioritizing aerobic exercise is a good start! In February 2013, researchers at The Cooper Institute, in collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center and Cooper Clinic, published a study in Annals of Internal Medicine reported that individuals who are fit at midlife have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias in their Medicare years. The study followed more than 19,000 generally healthy men and women who completed a preventive exam at Cooper Clinic in Dallas when they were, on average, 49 years of age. The exam also included an assessment of other health risk factors such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and cholesterol. Their health status was evaluated using Medicare data between 1999 and 2009, an average of 24 years after their Cooper Clinic examination. “One in eight people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Cooper Institute. “This study shows that the most cost-effective way to prevent dementia are through lifestyle changes that require minimal medical intervention.”

Another risk reducer is eating fatty fish such as salmon and trout and taking omega-3 supplements. In a study published in Neurology last month, researchers testing omega-3 levels of 1,111 women who were part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. Eight years later, when the women were an average age of 78, MRI scans were taken to measure their brain volumes. The findings revealed that women with the higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids had larger brain volumes eight years later, equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health. Women with the higher levels of omega-3s also had a 2.7 percent larger volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory.

In another study published in May 2012 in Neurology, a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center found that increased consumption of omega-3 correlates significantly with lower plasma levels of beta-amyloid 42 in elderly individuals without dementia.

The American Heart Association recommends consumption of two servings of fatty fish each week. For those who don’t meet this minimum, omega-3 fish oil supplements may be beneficial. Each two softgel serving of Advanced Omega-3 contains 1,200 mg EPA and DHA (combined), the components of fish oil that are so beneficial to health.


Standardized Mini-Mental State Examination (SMMSE)
The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)
Higher midlife fitness can impact brain health in later life, The Cooper Institute
Omega-3 Rich Diet May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease
Higher Levels of omega-3 fatty acids help boost brain volume
Fish and Omega-3 fatty acids

Article provided by Jill Turner, President of Cooper Complete®.