Age related cognitive decline and vitamin E.




Archives of Neurology

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Cognitive Function Vitamin E
Professional Data: Cognitive Function Vitamin E


Cognitive function is the term used to describe a person's state of consciousness (alertness and orientation), memory, and attention span. A mental status examination (MSE) is a standard test used by healthcare professionals to measure a patient's overall mental health. Evaluating a patient's cognitive function includes, first of all, measuring their level of alertness and orientation.

In the early stages of cognitive decline, patients may seem inattentive or disoriented. Patients that become confused are generally subdued, not inclined to speak, and physically inactive. As the disease progresses, patients have increasing difficulty with memory, perception, comprehension, problem solving skills, language skills, and occasional inappropriate emotional behavior. In the final stages of dementia producing illnesses, the patient may lose the ability to coordinate muscle movement for walking, control the bowel or bladder, and may lose the ability to chew or swallow.

It is important to know that there is a difference between the normal aging process, and dementia (loss of functions such as those described above). In normal aging, the loss of memory is slow and involves things like forgetting where objects are located, or forgetting a person's name or phone number. In dementia causing illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, the process continually worsens until the patient is unable to perform normal activities of daily living.

Recently published in the Archives of Neurology, researchers wanted to find out if the intake of certain antioxidants, such as vitamin E and C and beta-carotene, was associated with a decrease in cognitive decline with age. This population-based study included 2,889 individuals aged 65 to 102 years. The average follow-up was 3.2 years. Cognitive function was measured by four tests, at baseline and 3 years in all participants. Researchers also estimated the nutritional effects of each person's diet on cognitive decline. Those who had a slower mental decline also had the largest intake of vitamin E when compared to those who had smaller amounts of vitamin E in their diet. The authors of this study concluded that, "Vitamin E intake, from foods or supplements, is associated with less cognitive decline with age."1


1. Morris MC, et al. Vitamin E and Cognitive Decline in Older Persons. Archives of Neurology. Jul 2002;59:1125-1132.