Vital Vitamins

Published January 1, 2004

Taking vitamins E and C together might reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Up until now early studies suggested only that these vitamins might help protect the brain against the degenerative disease.

These vitamins, known as antioxidants, could help shield the brain from highly damaging molecules called free radicals. Brain cells are particularly vulnerable to damage by free radicals, which are produced along with the plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

In 1995, a research team recruited 4,740 men and women age 65 and older living in Cache County, Utah. The team examined each recruit and found that 200 already had Alzheimer’s. According to Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers found participants in the study taking the vitamins were 64 percent less likely to have developed Alzheimer’s disease four years after the study began.

Researchers re-examined the recruits after four years and found only 104 additional recruits developed Alzheimer’s. A statistical analysis found vitamins C and E seemed to offer some protection. The most effective doses were vitamin E in liquid capsules of 400 to 1,000 units and vitamin C in pill form of 500 to 1,500 milligrams.

The study alone offers no solid evidence vitamins C and E can help prevent the disease. To make a solid case, researchers would have to test vitamins C and E in research using the vitamins against a placebo.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.