Vitamin E may keep the mind sharp in old age

August 6, 2002 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Vitamin E may keep the mind sharp in old age

Vitamin E from food and supplements may help slow the decline in mental functioning among older people, according to the American researchers.

Researchers from Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois theorized that vitamin E, an antioxidant, might combat the damage done to brain cells by free radicals.

Free radicals are byproducts of normal body processes that can damage tissue and have been linked to disease. Previous research has found that people who consume more vitamin E retain mental function and are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

In this study, the researchers followed more than 2,800 American men and women aged 65 to 102. Each was given an initial battery of mental function tests and followed for an average of 3 years, during which they were retested two or three times. They were also asked to fill out a food questionnaire assessing how much of various nutrients they received in their diets and from supplements.

The group who reported the highest intakes of vitamin E had a slower decline in mental function than those whose vitamin E intake was lowest. There was a 32% reduction in the rate of decline for people who had the highest intake of vitamin E compared to those consumed the least.

For those who took vitamin E supplements, the effect on mental skill was only seen among those who received little vitamin E from their diet, but not in those who already received lots of the vitamin in their diet.

The research team recently reported similar findings for vitamin E and Alzheimer's disease. A high intake of the nutrient was linked to a 70% reduction in the risk of developing the disease during a 4-year period. Together, these studies strongly suggest that vitamin E has some protective effect on the brain.

Vitamin E is found in green, leafy vegetables as well as wheat germ, nuts, seeds, olives and vegetable oils.

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