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Beta-carotene prevents cognitive decline.

Participants in the Physicians' Health Study, which began in 1982, were randomly assigned to receive, in double-blind fashion, 50 mg of beta-carotene every other day or placebo for a mean of 18 years. Participants in the Physicians' Health Study II, which was begun in 1998, were also randomly assigned to receive beta-carotene or placebo for a mean of one year until the beta-carotene arm of the study was terminated. Among participants from the Physicians' Health Study (mean treatment duration, 18 years), the mean global score that assessed cognitive function was significantly higher in the beta-carotene group than in the placebo group (p = 0.03). On verbal memory, the beta-carotene group also performed significantly better than the placebo group (p = 0.007). No difference in cognitive function was seen between the beta-carotene and placebo groups among participants in the Physicians' Health Study II (mean treatment duration, one year).

Comment: Oxidative stress contributes to brain aging. Because beta-carotene is an antioxidant, it has the potential to slow the aging process, thereby slowing the normal decline in cognitive function. The results of the present study indicate that long-term beta-carotene supplementation prevented cognitive decline, but short-term supplementation did not. Smokers should not take beta-carotene supplements, because this compound has been shown to increase the incidence of lung cancer in smokers. It is probably best to obtain beta-carotene mostly from foods (i.e., fruits and vegetables) rather than from supplements, because foods that contain beta-carotene are also rich in many other beneficial nutrients.

Grodstein F, et al. A randomized trial of beta carotene supplementation and cognitive function in men: The Physicians' Health Study II. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:2184-2190.
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Title Annotation:Literature Review & Commentary
Author:Gaby, Alan R.
Publication:Townsend Letter
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Words:275
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