Intake of vitamins C and E and risk of Alzheimer's disease.





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Senile dementia is the medical term for senility, the gradual loss of mental function that so often occurs with aging. Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of senile dementia, accounts for more than 60 percent of the cognitive function disorders in the aging population. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition that results in a slow deterioration of memory, reasoning, and behavior. The loss of intellectual function interferes with daily life, and after a disease course that may last many years, eventually results in death. Death is usually due to factors such as malnutrition, complications of the immune system such as pneumonia or infection, injury, and even choking.

Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease that causes severe degeneration of brain tissue. Plaque deposits accumulate in the spaces between brain cells. The cells themselves form twisted, spaghetti-like masses called "neurofibrillary tangles." Why these changes happen in the brains of some people but not others remains a matter of speculation. Scientists are unsure as to which of these abnormalities occurs first, the plaque or the tangles. What triggers them in the first place is not known for certain.

Recently, a study was conducted to determine if the intake of antioxidants was related to the risk of Alzheimer's disease. This prospective cohort study investigated 5,395 adults who were all over the age of 55 at baseline. These participants were free from dementia and dietary assessments. From 1990 to 1999, researchers monitored the incidence of Alzheimer's or dementia and the dietary intake of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins E and C. After follow-up, 197 participants developed dementia, and 146 of those developed Alzheimer's. After adjustments for lifestyle habits, the results illustrated that higher intakes of vitamin E and vitamin C were associated with a decreased risk of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. This association was the highest among current smokers. The authors concluded that high intakes of vitamins C and E could lower the risks of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.1


1. Engelhart MJ, et al. Dietary Intake of Antioxidants and Risk of Alzheimer's Disease. JAMA. Jun 2002; 287:3223-3229.