Chalk up some important, positive news to our old friend, the super antioxidant, vitamin E.
A new study has found that, if you eat more foods high in vitamin E, you appear to have a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This news comes from the prestigious “Archives of Neurology” journal.
“Oxidative stress” is a clinical term that means damage to the cells from oxygen exposure. It is the operative phrase when talking about antioxidants, because it is the oxidative stress we are trying to prevent. This stress is believed to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Early data suggest that antioxidants — nutrients that help repair this damage — may protect against the degeneration of nervous system cells. Thus far, antioxidant supplements have not proven effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease in major studies. But, there is a wide variety of antioxidants in food that are not well-studied with regard to dementia.
It is there where we turn our attention. Researchers in the Netherlands assessed nearly 5,400 adults 55 years and older who did not have dementia between 1990 and 1993. These individuals were interviewed at home, did two clinical exams at the start of the study, and provided dietary information through a meal-based checklist and a food questionnaire.
The study targeted four antioxidants: vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, and flavonoids. The major food sources of vitamin E were margarine, sunflower oil, butter, cooking fat, soybean oil, and mayonnaise. The vitamin C came mainly from oranges, kiwi, grapefruit juice, grapefruit, cauliflower, red bell peppers, and red cabbage. The beta-carotene came from carrots, spinach, vegetable soup, endive, and tomato. And the flavonoids were from tea, onions, apples and carrots.
Over the next decade or so, 465 participants developed dementia; 365 of these had Alzheimer’s disease. They found that those who consumed the most vitamin E were 25% less likely to develop dementia than those who consumed the least. Meanwhile, levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and flavonoids were not linked to dementia risk.
The brain is especially vulnerable to oxidative damage. This damage, over time, is strongly thought to contribute to the development of dementia. Vitamin E is a strong fat-soluble vitamin that could help prevent the string of events that leads to the degeneration of neurons.
Other food sources of vitamin E include mustard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, kale, papaya, bell peppers, and olives.