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Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 23:58 GMT
Vitamin E could halt Alzheimer's
Memory loss is an early sign of dementia
Vitamin supplements could prevent brain disorders
A daily vitamin E supplement could protect the brain and prevent the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer's, a study suggests.

Scientists in Japan discovered it is possible to reverse a degenerative brain disease simply by administering vitamin E.

They say the supplement is a powerful antidote to the oxidative stress linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer's.

Taking vitamin supplements could help prevent such diseases, the researchers claim.

This fundamental new biological research will hopefully encourage more work on vitamin E in humans

Dr Richard Harvey, Alzheimer's Society
The study has been carried out on mice, not humans, but the potential for treatment is immense, it is suggested.

Oxidative stress is caused by the toxic effect of highly reactive oxygen molecules, called free radicals, which damage cells and DNA.

Growing evidence shows it may be responsible for certain progressive neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease.

Antioxidants such as vitamin E neutralise free radicals and counteract the damage they cause.

Abnormalities reversed

Japanese scientists produced genetically modified mice lacking a gene essential for maintaining levels of vitamin E in the body.

The mice displayed signs of poor co-ordination and shaking, associated with an inherited human neurodegenerative disease.

The mice were given vitamin supplements to restore their brain vitamin E levels to just 10 to 20% of normal and their symptoms were virtually eradicated.

The scientists said, to their knowledge, this was the first time a food-administered treatment had been shown to halt, rather than slow, the development of such a disease.

"This therapy almost completely corrects the abnormalities in a mouse model of human neurodegenerative disease," they wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers say similar vitamin-E deficient mice could be used to investigate the mechanisms of Alzheimer's and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

'Major study needed'

Dr Richard Harvey, director of research for the UK's Alzheimer's Society said: "This new research, although animal based, suggests that vitamin E supplements can prevent and even reverse early neurodegenerative changes that would ultimately lead to Alzheimer's disease.

"This fundamental new biological research will hopefully encourage more work on vitamin E in humans, and particularly encourage funding bodies to commit resources to primary prevention trials.

"What we really need to see is a primary prevention study involving tens of thousands of healthy elderly people to see whether vitamin E supplements can really prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

"Unfortunately such a trial would be expensive, and there is a severe lack of funds for all types of research that involve elderly people."

See also:

22 Oct 01 | Health
Alzheimer's 'link' to small heads
20 Jul 01 | Health
Alzheimer's therapy hope
18 Jun 01 | Health
Genetic clue to Alzheimer's risk
06 Jun 01 | Health
Vaccine hope for Alzheimer's
20 Dec 00 | A-B
Alzheimer's disease
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