Diets rich in vitamins C and E may delay the onset of AlzheimerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disease, two studies in last weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Journal of the American Medical Association suggest. Compounds called free radicals that are released during normal cell processes can be harmful to body tissues, leading to oxidative damage or stress. Experts have linked oxidative stress to several illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. Since antioxidants--including vitamins C and E--can neutralize free radicals, some experts believe these nutrients could help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
In the first study, researchers in the Netherlands reviewed dietary information for 5,395 men and women at least 55 years old who were free of dementia. The team found that those with the highest intake of vitamin C and vitamin E from food appeared to be the least likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. Smokers who consumed the most beta-carotene and flavonoids--two types of antioxidant nutrients--also appeared to cut their Alzheimer's risk.
In the second study, researchers from Chicago, Illinois aimed to identify a relationship between consumption of antioxidant nutrients and the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. They studied 815 men and women aged 65 and older. They found that those with the highest dietary intake of vitamin E had the lowest risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. But people who carried a gene known to increase Alzheimer's risk did not see any benefit from vitamin E consumption.
Neither of the studies showed any reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's among people who took dietary supplements like daily vitamin pills that contained antioxidants. A benefit only appeared when the nutrients were consumed in food. This finding, in itself, suggests that perhaps some other component of food slows progression of Alzheimer's disease.
The similarity of the results of the two studies provides persuasive support for the idea that antioxidant vitamins in food may have a beneficial impact on the development of Alzheimer's disease.
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