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Study: Nutrients cut Alzheimer's risk

Vitamins C and E, in correct doses, found particularly effective

January 20 — Appropriate daily doses of vitamins E and C taken together dramatically reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease among elderly people, a new study published in the Archives of Neurology suggests.

Taken in supplement form, the vitamins anti-oxidant properties appear to control the buildup of so-called free radicals that are believed to damage cells and lead to the debilitating brain disease, according to the report.

Alzheimer gradually robs millions of people of their memories and ultimately of their mental faculties. Roughly 5 million Americans suffer from the disease today, but that number is expected to jump to 14 million by the year 2050 unless effective treatment and prevention methods are developed. The risks of developing Alzheimer increase markedly with age. One in 10 people over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease today.

The report involved 4,740 participants, 65 years of age or older, who were followed in a five-year study which began in 1995. In the first phase of the study, 200 cases of Alzheimer’s were diagnosed, and those who had been taking vitamin supplements were at a 78 percent lower risk of the disease than those who had not. At the end of the study, another 104 participants had developed the disease, and the risk factor was 64 percent lower among supplement users.

Participants took vitamin C supplements containing 500 mg (or more) daily, and vitamin E supplements containing 400 international units (or more) daily. The study found that taking lower doses, or only one of the two vitamin supplements taken alone, did not have the same protective effect. Note: The recommended daily allowance for vitamin E is 22 to 30 international units, and for vitamin C it is 60 to 90 milligrams.

High-dose vitamin supplements are rarely toxic and could have wide-ranging health benefits, the report said.

"These results are extremely exciting," said study author Peter Zandi of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He also cautioned that this was an observational study, and a full-scale controlled trial is needed.

However, given the long time-cycles involved in this disease, it would be many years before results could be measured in any such prospective long-term trial. For now, the results of this study provide strong evidence of the efficacy of at least these two vitamins in preventing or forestalling the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

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