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Vitamin C and beta-carotene suggested to combat dementia

By Nathan Gray+

12-Sep-2012

Low levels of the dietary antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene could be linked to the onset of mild dementia, according to new research.

The study – published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease – examined the influence of antioxidants on the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study suggests that it may be possible to influence the onset of Alzheimer’s through dietary manipulation to replace antioxidants that are found in low levels.

Led by Professor Gabriele Nagel from the University of Ulm, Germany, the research team investigated whether serum-levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene as well as lycopene and coenzyme Q10 are significantly lower in the blood of AD-patients.

“In order to possibly influence the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease, we need to be aware of potential risk factors,” explained Nagel.

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

The team said the discovery that the serum-concentration of the vitamin C and beta-carotene are significantly lower in patients with mild dementia than in control persons could mean that the onset of such conditions could be prevented by ensuring levels do not initially fall. However they noted that, for now at least, the discovery was purely an association and that no causal link could be confirmed without further investigation.

“Longitudinal studies with more participants are necessary to confirm the result that vitamin C and beta-carotene might prevent the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease,” confirmed Nagel.

Study details

The team assessed 74 patients suffering from AD in addition to 158 healthy control participants from the cross-sectional study IMCA ActiFE (Activity and Function in the Elderly in Ulm). The 65 to 90 years old seniors from Ulm and the surrounding area underwent neuropsychological testing and answered questions regarding their lifestyle, in addition to having blood samples taken and body mass index (BMI) calculated.

Nagel and her tam reveal that the concentration of vitamin C and beta-carotene in the serum of AD-patients was significantly lower than in the blood of control subjects – while no such difference between the groups could be found for other antioxidants (vitamin E, lycopene, coenzyme Q10).

They noted that potential confounding factors including education, civil status, BMI, consumption of alcohol and tobacco have been considered in the statistical analysis, but conceded that other parameters like the storage and preparation of food as well as stressors in the life of participants might have influenced the findings.

As a result, the findings need to be confirmed in further prospective studies, they said.

Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Volume 31, Number 4 , Pages 717-724, doi : 10.3233/JAD-2012-120634
“Dietary Antioxidants and Dementia in a Population-Based Case-Control Study among Older People in South Germany”
Authors: Christine A.F. von Arnim, Florian Herbolsheimer, Thorsten Nikolaus, Richard Peter, Hans K. Biesalski, et al

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