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Vitamin E's benefits for Alzheimer's patients.

Much has been written about the apparent value of vitamin E in preventing or treating a variety of diseases, yet some nutrition experts still balk at recommending the use of supplements to increase one's daily intake above the level amount provided in a well-balanced diet. Medical authorities have always been reluctant to recommend supplementing the diets of healthy persons with large doses of vitamins or minerals that may or may not decrease the risk of certain diseases. There comes a time, however, when the accumulated scientific evidence is sufficient to consider the use of supplements in doses well above what is currently thought to be adequate.

While it is true that megadoses of some vitamins and minerals can create problems of their own, in advising against the use of supplements is to encourage changes in dietary habits, using the USDA Food Pyramid as a guide to proper nutrition. Vitamins and minerals in food are far superior to anything that can be packed into a capsule or tablet, for there are other factors present in food that influence the absorption and utilization of these nutrients. As more is learned about the role of antioxidants, however, it may not be so easy to assure an optimal intake from diet alone.

Such would seem to be the case with vitamin E. Vegetable oils and products made from them (e.g., margarine) are rich in vitamin E, as are sweet potatoes, wheat germ, corn, nuts, seeds, olives, asparagus, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables. Given the uncertainty of exactly how much vitamin E is available in any given product, however, supplements provide a sure means of achieving daily levels well above the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

Two recent studies so strongly support the benefits of vitamin E that few health professionals are likely to oppose the use of supplements in favor of a well-balanced diet alone. The most significant regarding its potential long-term effect on a very large segment of the population was conducted at Tufts University's Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Massachusetts. The 88 men and women aged 65 and over in the eight-month study improved the strength of their immune systems significantly after only four months of supplementation with vitamin E.

Strength of the immune system was measured by the skin response known as delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH), along with measurement of antibodies to hepatitis B after being inoculated with hepatitis B vaccine. Resistance to infection in older persons means longer life, and earlier studies have strongly supported the value of a strong DTH as an indicator of such resistance. Postoperative infection, for example, is particularly devastating in the elderly, and studies have shown that the higher the DTH before undergoing surgery, the lower the mortality from infection following surgery.

The 88 participants were divided into four groups, three of which received daily supplements of 60 units, 200 units, and 800 units of vitamin E respectively, while the fourth group received a placebo. The RDA of vitamin E is 30 units, so the experimental dosages were designed to cover a wide range of vitamin E intake, all well above the current RDA.

DTH is measured with the use of a device that introduces into the skin minute doses of several different antigens--protein substances, derived from organisms that cause disease (bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc.), which stimulate production of the T cells that are a key component of the immune system. The best results were seen in the group receiving 200 units daily, who averaged a 65 percent stronger response than the control group. This group also averaged a 600 percent increase in antibodies after vaccination against hepatitis B, as well as a significant increase in antibodies after tetanus. The group receiving 800 units daily, on the other hand, had no better protection against tetanus than the control group, although they did develop more antibodies to hepatitis B. However, the results of their DTH levels were no better than those of the control group.

The researchers were quick to point out that the study did not look at the history of actual infections in these groups before and after taking vitamin E supplements, and thus could not guarantee that 200 units of vitamin E daily will result in fewer infections. It seems reasonable to conclude, however, that strengthening the immune system with vitamin E should significantly affect infections in older persons. Given that vitamin E in much larger doses is not toxic, and that medical research is increasingly supporting the role of vitamin E in preventing cardiovascular and other diseases, there now seems to be every reason to recommend this level of vitamin E intake.

The other recent vitamin E study involved persons with moderately advanced Alzheimer's disease who were given 2,000 units of vitamin E daily. Columbia University researchers, who used more than six times the RDA, were able to delay, by an average of seven months, such outcomes of Alzheimer's as death, institutionalization, severe dementia, and loss of ability to perform routine daily functions. The American Psychiatric Association bases its new recommendation that people use vitamin E to delay the course of this disease on this study.

Others, however--including the Alzheimer's Association--are more cautious. They express concern that such large doses may interfere with other drugs being used to treat the disease. In addition, daily doses this large may create bleeding problems, so use should be under the supervision of a physician.

One of the most useful tools for adding more vitamin E and other antioxidants to the diet is The Saturday Evening Post Antioxidant Cookbook, written by the Post's editor-in-chief, Dr. Cory SerVaas. To order a copy of this easy-to-use, 208-page cookbook, send $21.95 plus $2.25 postage and handling to The Saturday Evening Post, P.O. Box 130, Indianapolis, IN 46206-0130 or call 1-800-558-AFPM. The previous page features a sample recipe from the book.

RELATED ARTICLE: Health Recipe of the Month

Deep Dish Yams

(Makes 6 servings)

5 tablespoons corn oil margarine 1 medium onion 3 cups boiled yams, peeled and sliced 2 cups apple chunks 1/2 cup celery 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon dried basil 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 2 tablespoon rum (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 [degrees] F.

Saute onion in 2 tablespoons margarine until tender; set aside. Melt remaining margarine in small saucepan. Grease deep 8" baking dish and layer with yams. Cover with some apple chunks and celery; sprinkle with a little onion, one half of brown sugar, lemon juice, basil, pepper, and melted margarine. Repeat process using rest of ingredients and finish with layer of apples and brown sugar. Sprinkle with lemon juice and rum, if desired. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Per Serving (1 cup):

Calories: 296 Cholesterol. 0 mg Sodium: 110 mg Carbohydrate: 49.7 gm Protein: 1.5 gm Fat: 0.3 gm
COPYRIGHT 1997 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes recipe
Author:Brown, Edwin W.
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1997
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