NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An analysis of "real-world" clinical data indicates that vitamin E, and drugs that reduce generalized inflammation, may slow the decline of mental and physical abilities in people with Alzheimer's disease (AD) over the long term.
"Our results are consistent for a potential benefit of vitamin E on slowing functional decline and a smaller possible benefit of anti-inflammatory medications on slowing cognitive decline in patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Alireza Atri told Reuters Health.
Atri, at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the VA Bedford Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, led the National Institutes of Health-sponsored research. The findings, reported at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society in Chicago, stem from data on 540 patients treated at the MGH Memory Disorders Unit.
All of the patients were receiving standard-of-care treatment with a drug intended to help patients with Alzheimer's. As part of their clinical care, 208 patients also took vitamin E but no anti-inflammatory, 49 took an anti-inflammatory but no vitamin E, 177 took both vitamin E and an anti-inflammatory, and 106 took neither.
While the daily dose of vitamin E ranged from 200 to 2000 units, the majority of patients were given high doses that ranged from 800 units daily to 1000 units twice daily.
Each patient's performance on cognitive tests and their ability to carry out daily functions such as dressing and personal care were assessed every 6 months. After an average of 3 years, "there was a modest slowing of decline in function in those patients taking vitamin E," study investigator Michael R. Flaherty noted in a telephone interview with Reuters Health.
Flaherty, a second-year student at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine, presented the findings at the meeting. He added that the treatment benefit from vitamin E was "small to medium" but increased with time.
Taking an anti-inflammatory medication was associated with "very consistent but generally only small effects on slowing long-term decline in cognitive functioning," Atri told Reuters Health.
However, in patients who took both vitamin E and anti-inflammatory medications, there appeared to be an additive effect in terms of slowing overall decline.
Given that past studies have produced equivocal results, the investigators conclude that further studies are needed to assess the long-term balance of risks versus benefits for people with Alzheimer's disease from taking vitamin E and anti-inflammatory drugs.
One study presented on July 12 at the Alzheimer's Association 2009 International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD 2009) in Vienna suggests that taking DHA, a common omega 3 fatty acid may not help people with Alzheimer's disease.
But another study presented at the same conference suggests that this omega 3 fatty acid can help improve memory healthy elderly people in a matter of six months.
"These two studies – and other recent Alzheimer's therapy trials – raise the possibility that treatments for Alzheimer's must be given very early in the disease for them to be truly effective," said William Thies, PhD, Chief Medical & Scientific Officer at the Alzheimer's Association.
"For that to happen, we need to get much better at early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's, in order to test therapies at earlier stages of the disease and enable earlier intervention."
DHA or docosahexaenoic acid naturally occurs in the body in small amounts and is found abundant in the brain. DHA can be extracted from some marine microalgae and fatty fish. Because of the concern about the environmental pollution, more people now than ever prefer DHA from microalgae...
Older adults in developing countries who regularly eat fish seem to have a lower risk of dementia, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among nearly 15,000 older adults living in China, India or one of five Latin American countries, the odds of having dementia generally declined as fish consumption rose.
For each increase in participants' reported fish intake -- from never, to some days of the week, to most or all days of the week -- the prevalence of dementia dipped by 19 percent.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, mirror evidence from some studies in developed nations.
The findings also suggest that the fish-dementia link does not simply reflect the benefits of a generally higher-quality diet. The study found that adults who got the most meat in their diets tended to have a somewhat higher prevalence of dementia than those who never ate meat...
The work of Belgian scientists has unlocked greater potential for a new method to predict and diagnose people with Alzheimer's disease, Reuters Health reports.
By measuring particular proteins in patients' spinal fluid, doctors can more accurately determine whether or not someone has the debilitating memory disease. They can also foresee if a current memory problem will develop into the disease and also detect early signs of its onset in healthy individuals.
The study, which appears in the Archives of Neurology, looked at spinal fluid from 114 adults with normal brain function, 200 with mild cognitive impairment and 102 already diagnoses with Alzheimer's disease.
Reuters Health reports that by identifying one protein associated with the disease and another linked to healthy brain function, researchers were able to successfully diagnose Alzheimer's in 90 percent of patients. They linked to traces of the proteins beta amyloid and tau that are commonly found in the brains of people who suffer from this form of dementia.
Geert De Meyer, of Ghent University in Belgium, and his team correctly identified each person with memory impairments that would lead to Alzheimer's within the next five years, and identified Alzheimer proteins in 36 percent of healthy people, Reuters Health reports.
Alzheimer's affects 26 million people around the world, and currently the only way to confirm a diagnosis is through an invasive autopsy of the brain.
Prior to dying, doctors attempt to identify the disease by administering written tests and by process of elimination of other causes like typical memory loss, tumors and excessive alcohol consumption. They can also use biomarkers, like the beta amyloid and tau proteins, to better identify the disease sooner.
But new rules were proposed in July from experts at the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association that included measuring spinal fluid to diagnose Alzheimer's patients even before they show symptoms, according to Reuters.