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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 02:17 GMT
Vitamins 'prevent dementia'
vitamins
Vitamin supplements could stave off mental decline
Boosting diets with vitamins C and E may prevent the onset of dementia caused by stroke and mental decline, say researchers.

Adding supplements may prevent the damage to brain cells associated with many ageing-related diseases, they say.

The research also suggests vitamins C and E may also protect against dementia by limiting the amount of brain damage after a stroke.

Scientists at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu investigated 3,385 Japanese-American men taking part in the Honolulu Heart Program.

The men were surveyed in 1982 and 1988 and assessed for mental ability and dementia during tests in 1991 to 1993.

Just under 3,000 of them had no problems with their mental processes, while 47 were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, 35 with vascular dementia - dementia caused by strokes - and 50 with other forms of dementia.

Men taking both vitamin C and vitamin E supplements at least once a week in 1988 were 88% less likely to have vascular dementia four years later. They were also 69% less likely to have other forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's-related, than those who did not take supplements.

Supplements

Of those without dementia, men taking the supplements in both 1982 and 1988 had a 75% greater chance of better mental performance than men not taking vitamin boosts.

Dr Kamal Masaki, at the university, said: "We believe antioxidants like vitamin E and C may protect against vascular dementia by limiting the amount of brain damage that persists after a stroke.

"The supplements may also play a role in providing protection against brain cell and membrane injury involved in many ageing-related diseases, thus resulting in significantly higher scores on mental performance tests in later life."

Vascular dementia sufferers face the same physical impairment as stroke sufferers - paralysis, speech and visual problems - in addition to mental impairment.

Dr Masaki added: "We originally thought that the beneficial impact antioxidant vitamin supplements had against vascular dementia was the prevention of stroke.

"However, to our surprise we found there was not a significant association between vitamin supplement use and clinically recognised stroke."

He was also surprised at the lack of protective effect against Alzheimer's.

Warning

But the Stroke Association in the UK warned of the dangers of taking vitamin supplements and urged people to eat a balanced diet instead.

A spokesman said: "People could do more harm than good by popping vitamin pills. They should not take them without medical advice.

"Vitamin C could actually increase the risk of stroke because it raises blood pressure."

There were also concerns that elderly people - those most at risk of stroke - could spend money they could not afford on dietary supplements.

But he added: "We need to look more closely at the role vitamins play in restricting the damage of stroke."

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05 Jan 00 | Medical notes
Health and ageing
08 Mar 00 | Health
Chewing 'wards off' dementia
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