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Antioxidants May Decrease Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease

E-Newsletter No. 30

Two population-based studies of antioxidants suggest that a diet rich in foods containing vitamin E may help protect some people against Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence has suggested that oxidative stress may play a key role in pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, and both studies, found in the June 26 JAMA. 2002; 287: 3223-3237, investigated the relationship between taking antioxidants in the forms of food and supplements and developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The Rotterdam Study comprised 5,395 inhabitants of the Netherlands who were at least 55 years of age and free of dementia. Subjects were asked to complete a checklist indicating all foods and drinks they had consumed during the past year. They also answered questions describing their dietary habits, use of supplements, and prescribed diets. A second dietary assessment included an interview with a dietician, who used a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire. After a mean follow-up of six years, 146 subjects had developed Alzheimer’s disease. After statistically adjusting for factors such as education, smoking, and body mass index, investigators found that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease for those in the highest third of vitamin E consumption (averaging more than 15.5mg/d) was 43% less than those in the lowest third (averaging less than 10.5 mg/d). in addition, the risk for Alzheimer’s disease n the highest third of vitamin C consumption (averaging more than 133 mg/d) was reduced by 34% when compared with those in the lowest third (averaging less than 95 mg/d). No significant relationship was found between other antioxidants, supplements, or the APOE e4 allele.

Martha Morris, ScD, of the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago, led a study of 815 participants from the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Subjects were at least 65 years old and free of dementia at the start of the study. They were followed for an average of 3.9 years. At the average of 1.7 years from their baseline assessment, the subjects completed a modified version of the Harvard food frequency questionnaire, asking them in detail about the kinds and quantities of food consumed in the previous year. By the end of the study period, 131 participants had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers examined the relationship between the intake of antioxidants-including dietary and supplemental vitamins E and C, beta carotene, and a multivitamin-and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The most significant effect was found among people in the top fifth of dietary vitamin E intake (averaging 11.4IU/d), whose risk of Alzheimer’s diseases was 67% lower when compared to people in the group with the lowest vitamin E consumption (averaging 6.2 IU/d). However, this association was found only among patients without apolipoprotein R (APOE) e4 alleles.

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