Vitamin 'slows functional decline'

Daily supplements of vitamin E can slow functional decline associated with Alzheimer's disease, research has found.

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A new study has found that daily supplements of vitamin E can slow functional decline associated with Alzheimer's disease

Daily supplements of vitamin E can slow functional decline associated with Alzheimer's disease, research has found.

Over a period of 2.3 years, patients with mild to moderate symptoms who took the supplements experienced an annual 19% reduction in the extent to which Alzheimer's affected their daily lives.

The effect amounted to a "clinically meaningful" delay in worsening ability to deal with daily activities such as shopping, preparing meals and travelling of 6.2 months, according to the US study authors.

Neither the drug memantine nor a combination of memantine and vitamin E were as beneficial, the trial results showed.

A total of 613 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's took part in the study, all of whom were already receiving medication for their symptoms.

One group of 152 patients received a daily dose of 2,000 international units (IU) of alpha tocopherol, a form of vitamin E.

Others received either an inactive dummy placebo, daily memantine, or a combination of vitamin E and memantine.

Change in functional decline was assessed using the Alzheimer's Disease Co-operative Study/Activities of Daily Living (ADCS-ADL) inventory, which scores the coping ability of patients from zero to 78.

Compared with those taking vitamin E, the placebo group's scores were reduced by three or more units on average. Patients taking the supplements saw their caregiver time reduced by about two hours a day.

"A loss of this magnitude could translate into either the complete loss of being able to dress or bath independently, for example, or losing independence on any three different ADLs," said the researchers led by Dr Maurice Dysken, from the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"Because vitamin E is inexpensive, it is likely these benefits are cost-effective as alpha tocopherol improves functional outcomes and decreases caregiver burden," they added.

Professor Kenneth Davis, president of the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, which took part in the study, said: "Now that we have a strong clinical trial showing that vitamin E slows functional decline and reduces the burdens on caregivers, vitamin E should be offered to patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease."