Can Vital Vitamins Help Slow Dementia?

Vitamin C and beta carotene levels are lower in patients with dementia

(RxWiki News) There is no known way to prevent dementia currently. However, researchers are learning more about ways to possibly slow it down or lessen the risk of the disease.

A recent study has found that people with mild dementia have lower levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene than healthy individuals of a similar age.

It's possible that vitamin C and beta carotene offer a protective effect against dementia, though scientists still aren't sure what the link between these vitamins and dementia means.

"Ask your pharmacist about supplements."

The goal of the study, led by Christine A.F. von Arnim, MD, at the University of Ulm in Germany, was to see how the antioxidant levels in the blood of people with mild dementia compared to the levels in a group of healthy people.

Antioxidants reduce the "oxidative stress" in a person's body. Oxidative stress occurs when a person's body is not able to get rid of the toxins created by molecules containing oxygen in the body.

Researchers believe oxidative stress contributes to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

For this study, researchers looked at 74 patients with mild dementia and 158 healthy individuals for comparison. Both groups' participants had an average age of 79.

The healthy individuals were part of a separate study called "Activity and Function in the Elderly."

The researchers measured the participants' blood levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene and substance called coenzyme Q10, which is important for cell functioning.

They found that the people with dementia had lower concentrations of vitamin C and beta-carotene in their blood compared to the healthy individuals.

The researchers adjusted their calculations to account for the participants' education level and weight as well as whether they smoked, took vitamin supplements or drank alcohol. The people with dementia still had lower levels of these two vitamins.

There could be other reasons for the lower levels in the people with dementia, such as how they store or prepare their food and other stresses in their lives.

The study did not find any differences between the two groups in their blood levels of vitamin E, lycopene or coenzyme Q10.

"Our findings suggest an association of vitamin C and beta-carotene with dementia," the authors wrote. "However this is limited to the cross-sectional character of our study and longitudinal data will give further insight into this association."

Vitamin C is found naturally in citrus fruits, and beta-carotene can be found in carrots, spinach and apricots.

The study was published September 11 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The research was funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg and by the European Union.

Review Date: 
September 10, 2012