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Can Antioxidant Supplements Prevent Cognitive Decline?

A study considers antioxidant supplements, used either alone or in combination, as preventative mechanisms against dementia in older men.

 

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a cognitive condition characterized by the deterioration of brain function due to aging. A common symptom of AD is dementia. Dementia occurs due to cognitive decline and effective disease-modifying treatments have not been recognized over the course of clinical trials. Thus, research has shifted its focus to preventative measures for such conditions. Oxidative stress, an identified pathway for dementia, may be altered by dietary intervention and antioxidant supplements. A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzes the effects of the antioxidant supplements, vitamin E and selenium, on the development of oxidative stress and susceptibility to dementia.

A total of 7540 individuals, aged 60 or older, were included in the study. Each participant was randomly assorted into one of three categories: vitamin E supplementation, selenium supplementation, and a combination of the two. The participants were screened for cognitive impairment using the Memory Impairment Screen (MIS). Patients scoring below the cut-off went through an additional screening process. Occurrence of dementia was classified as follows: participants failed both screening processes and a team of 2-3 expert neurologists and neuropsychologists reached a consensus pertaining to the patient’s diagnosis. Statistical analyses were conducted to compare the three groups.

Characteristics of the participant pool included a mean age of 67.5 years with a standard deviation of 5.3 years. 52.2% of the participants had completed college level education or higher. Dementia occurrence among the patients stood at 4.4%. When adjusted with demographic information and self-reported conditions, hazard ratios were determined for each category of participants. Hazard ratios of 0.88, 0.83, and 1.00 were determined for vitamin E, selenium, and a combination of the two respectively. It was concluded that neither supplement tested prevented dementia.

Since this was the first study of its kind, it serves as an example and encourages further research on preventative measures against cognitive conditions such as dementia. The study was limited in scope, in terms of gender, supplements used, and the amount of time that the patients were exposed to the supplements. With an increasing number of studies, medical professionals may be able to identify mechanisms that prevent cognitive decline, which is an important step considering that disease-altering treatments are rare.

 

Written By: Shrishti Ahuja, BSc

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