Taking certain antioxidant vitamin supplements will not prevent dementia in old age, new study findings suggest. While some previous reports have suggested that vitamin C and E may be protective against the development of dementia, the current study indicates that use of vitamin C and E supplements, taken separately or together, do not alter the risk of the disease.
Dementia is caused by the progressive death of brain cells. Roughly 5% of the American population over the age of 65 suffers from some form of dementia, and the risk increases with age. Alzheimer's disease is the leading type of dementia in old age. Researchers have suggested that formation of free radicals, which is blocked by antioxidant vitamins such as C and E, may be involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
The new study is based on data first collected in 1965 on Japanese-American men who were born in the early 1900s. Now named the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS), it asked 2,369 of these men about their consumption of vitamin supplements in 1998 and through 1991-1993. Cases of dementia were then identified in two different assessments of the men, one in 1994 to 1996 and the other from 1997 through 1999.
The investigators found that compared with those taking no supplements, men using both vitamin C and E (either long- or short-term) were not at a reduced risk of developing dementia. There was also no association found between supplement use and dementia when the vitamins were taken separately.
These results do not support the use of antioxidant vitamin supplements, particularly vitamin C and vitamin E, to reduce the risk for dementia. But other studies have shown mixed results and two recent studies showed that dietary intake of these vitamins did affect dementia but supplemental intake didn't.
The investigators suggested that studies in other population groups at high risk of dementia be conducted to better determine if giving supplements for an extended length of time can actually prevent dementia.
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