“Vitamin E is a family of eight natural components, but most studies related to Alzheimer’s disease investigate only one of these components, a-tocopherol”, says Dr. Francesca Mangialasche, who led the study. “We hypothesized that all the vitamin E family members could be important in protecting against AD. If confirmed, this result has implications for both individuals and society, as 70 percent of all dementia cases in the general population occur in people over 75 years of age, and the study suggests a protective effect of vitamin E against AD in individuals aged 80+.“

The study was conducted at the Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, in collaboration with the Institute of Gerontology and Geriatrics, University of Perugia, Italy. The study included a sample of 232 participants from the Kungsholmen Project, a population-based longitudinal study on aging and dementia in Stockholm (Kungsholmen parish). All participants were aged 80+ years and were dementia-free at the beginning of the study (baseline). After 6-years of follow-up, 57 AD cases were identified.

The blood levels of all eight natural vitamin E components were measured at the beginning of the study. Subjects with higher blood levels (highest tertile) were compared with subjects who had lower blood levels (lowest tertile) to verify whether these two groups developed dementia at different rates. The study found that subjects with higher blood levels of all the vitamin E family forms had a reduced risk of developing AD, compared to subjects with lower levels. After adjusting for various confounders, the risk was reduced by 45-54%, depending on the vitamin E component.

Dr Mangialasche notes that the protective effect of vitamin E seems to be related to the combination of the different forms. Another recent study indicated that supplements containing high doses of the E vitamin form a-tocopherol may increase mortality, emphasizing that such dietary supplements, if not used in a balanced way, may be more harmful than previously thought.

“Elderly people as a group are large consumers of vitamin E supplements, which usually contain only a-tocopherol, and this often at high doses”, says Dr Mangialasche. “Our findings need to be confirmed by other studies, but they open up for the possibility that the balanced presence of different vitamin E forms can have an important neuroprotective effect.”

Publication: ‘High plasma levels of vitamin E forms and reduced Alzheimer’s disease risk in advanced age’, Francesca Mangialasche, Miia Kivipelto, Patrizia Mecocci, Debora Rizzuto, Katie Palmer, Bengt Winblad, Laura Fratiglioni, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD), 5 July 2010, DOI: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091450. JAD has an impact factor of 5.101 according to Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports (2009), and is published by IOS Press.

For further information, please contact:

Francesca Mangialasche, MD, Geriatrician
Mobile: +46-76-287 25 00 or +39-338-86 22 885
E-mail: Francesca.Mangialasche@ki.se

Miia Kivipelto, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Senior Geriatrician,
Deputy Head, Aging Research Center
Mobile: +46-73-994 09 22
E-mail: Miia.Kivipelto@ki.se

Laura Fratiglioni, MD, PhD, Professor,
Director of the Aging Research Center
Mobile: +46-70-773 58 18
E-mail: Laura.Fratiglioni@ki.se

Karolinska Institutet press office
Tel: +46-8-524 860 77
Email: pressinfo@ki.se
Web: http://ki.se

Karolinska Institutet is one of the world’s leading medical universities. Its mission is to contribute to the improvement of human health through research and education. Karolinska Institutet accounts for over 40 per cent of the medical academic research conducted in Sweden, and offers the country’s broadest range of education in medicine and health sciences. Since 1901 the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has selected the Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine.