Vitamin C & E supplements may protect against age-related brain declines: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock
Supplements of vitamin C and E may reduce the risk of cognitive decline, according to data from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging.

Data collected over the period 1991-2002 for 5,269 people aged over 65 indicated that users of vitamin C and/or E supplements had a 23% reduced risk cognitive impairment, not dementia (CIND), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), or all-cause dementia.

“This study supports a protective role of vitamin E and C supplements in the risk for AD and all-cause dementia. In addition, these supplements may contribute to a reduced risk of CIND,”​ wrote researchers from the Center of Excellence for the Aging of Québec and the Center for Health Social Services of Chicoutimi in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy​.

“Overall, these findings indicate additional support for the use of antioxidants as a preventive strategy against cognitive decline. Supplements of vitamins C and E are generally safe, inexpensive, and may provide a number of health benefits.”

The effects of aging

Brain functioning is known to naturally decline as we age, and mild cognitive impairment is a transitional state when small changes in memory and other mental abilities coexist with normal functioning.

Such declines in functions are often a warning sign of dementia – a term used to describe various different brain disorders that a progressive loss of brain functioning in common. Oxidative stress has been reported to be a contributing factor to this process.

Commenting on the potential mechanism of action for vitamins C and E, the Canadian authors of the new study wrote: “The biological plausibility of a beneficial effect of antioxidant vitamins on cognitive function has been supported by the endogenous capacity of these compounds to reduce neuronal damage and death caused by oxidative stress, which contributes to the pathogenesis of dementia.

“Some research showed that pathological AD changes are already well established in the brain in a substantial fraction of people diagnosed with cognitive impairment. In addition, low blood levels of vitamins E and C are associated with a memory deficit in older dementia-free persons.”

Study details

vitamin E iStock.com Zerbor
Over 90% of Americans are not consuming the RDA for vitamin E, and most people eating less than half of the RDA. Image © iStock/Zerbor

The researchers analyzed data from over 5,200 seniors and found that the use of vitamin E and/or C supplements was associated with statistically significant 40% and 42% reduction in the risks of all cause-dementia and AD, respectively.

In addition, the use of either vitamin C or E separately was associated with statistically significant 43% and 46% reductions in the risks of AD, compared to non-users.

Regarding the risk of CIND, the researchers found that use of vitamin C or E supplements were associated with a 31% and 32% reduction, respectively.

“This analysis suggests that the use of vitamin E and C supplements is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Further investigations are needed to determine their value as a primary prevention strategy,”​ concluded the researchers.

Vitamin E and brain health

There are eight forms of vitamin E: Four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta).

Data from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden has indicated that all plasma vitamin E forms may play a role in brain health.

A paper published in the Neurobiology of Aging​ found that the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was 15% and 8% lower in people with the highest levels of tocopherols and tocotrienols, respectively.

Source: Annals of Pharmacotherapy
Volume 51, Issue 2, Pages 118-124, doi: 10.1177/1060028016673072
“Use of Vitamin E and C Supplements for the Prevention of Cognitive Decline”
Authors: L.L. Basambombo et al

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