Alzheimer’s disease can take a huge toll on close family members watching their loved one forget who their family is let alone who they are. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the number one cause of Dementia. The disease does not only occur to the elderly and is not the normal process for individuals to go through. Early onset can and is seen in individuals in their 50s and 60s. It is a slow process in which individual lose their cognitive ability to the point in which they can no longer function properly with daily tasks.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown although it is known there are changes seen in the brain at a much faster rate than normal individuals. These changes are abnormal structures known as plaques and tangles. Plaques according to the Alzheimer’s Association are protein deposits of beta-amyloid which build up in between nerve cells and tangles are twisted fibers of a protein called tau which build up within the cells. It still is unknown exactly what role plaques and tangles have in Alzheimer’s disease however, it is known that the destruction of nerve cells leads to the changes seen in the disease process.
There are currently two types of medications approved by the FDA to treat cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease; cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. These medications do not cure the disease rather they can help to slow the process of decline seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is not an approved treatment for Alzheimer’s disease but some physicians do prescribe large doses of vitamin E as well.
So why if the FDA does not approve of vitamin E, do physicians prescribe it and are there dangers involved in the use of vitamin E? There has been research that has shown that vitamin E may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease but it did not maintain thinking abilities. In the study published by the American Medical Association individuals taking vitamin E needed less assistance from caregivers but it did not show any improvement when taking with other medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E is needed by every individual to maintain their immune system, for formation of red blood cells, and cells use vitamin E to carry out certain functions. According to the National institution of health taking high doses of vitamin E in supplement form may increase the risk of bleeding, brain bleeds and birth defects. According to the Alzheimer’s Association vitamin E can interact with other medications to decrease cholesterol or prevent blood clots and only slightly increase the risk for death.
If individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s should continue taking medications as prescribed by their physician and should not start taking vitamin E supplements in large doses without consulting their physician first. There is no evidence that taking vitamin E with other Alzheimer’s medications decreases memory loss or improves function. More research is still needed in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the use of supplements for treatment.