A daily dose of vitamin E or selenium supplements won’t keep dementia at bay in older men, new research reveals.
“After an average of five years of supplementation, and up to 11 years of follow-up, we did not observe fewer new cases of dementia among men who took any of the supplements compared to neither supplement,” said study co-author Frederick Schmitt. He’s a professor with the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and the department of neurology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
“Based on these results, we do not recommend vitamin E or selenium supplements to prevent dementia at these doses,” he added. Approximately 5 million American Seniors are now living with Alzheimer’s, the study authors noted.
Between 2002 and 2008, the study enrolled slightly more than 7,500 males across the United States and Canada. All were aged 60 or older. None had a history of neurological problems, dementia, serious head injury or substance abuse.
Participants were divided into four groups: a vitamin E group; a selenium group; a combination group; and a placebo group. The supplement doses were 400 IUs of vitamin E and 200 mcg of selenium per day. The men took the supplements or the placebo for an average of about five years, the study authors said.
In the end, 325 men developed dementia at some point during the study. Of these, 71 had been in the vitamin E group, 78 in the selenium group, 91 in the combination group, and 85 in the control group.
“For consumers specifically concerned about brain health and cognition, they should beware that no scientifically rigorous studies have identified any supplement as an effective treatment or prevention for dementia,” Schmitt said.
Dr. Steven DeKosky, co-author of an accompanying editorial and deputy director of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida in Gainesville, had words of advice when it comes to taking supplements for any reason: “buyer beware.”
“My rule for people taking supplements is that they should check with their physicians,” he said. Supplements can sometimes interact with prescription drugs, and “there is no proof that they work.”
The study was published online March 20 in JAMA Neurology.
The researchers said they initially became interested in vitamin E and selenium because of their antioxidant properties. Based on the tone of this report I question their motivation. It appears this was just a study designed to slam nutritional supplementation.
There are many studies that show the benefit of the omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA in the prevention of dementia. As for the statement by Dr. DeKosky on supplements that “there is no proof that they work.” Has he not read any history on vitamins? The known vitamins were all discovered early in the last century when many diseases were found to be caused by vitamin deficiencies and cured by supplementation. Rickets is caused by a vitamin D deficiency and cured by supplementation. Pellagra – niacin (vitamin B3), Scurvy – vitamin C, the list goes on and on.
Unfortunately, this direct deficiency – disease correlation is unusual. Disease is often a very complex state of dysfunction with multiple and varied causes. Science too often looks for that one factor that just doesn’t exist.
The Bottom Line:
Nutritional support for the prevention of dementia is in the early stages of investigation. The underlying factors are thought to begin in early adulthood many years prior to the onset of symptoms. I agree that supplementing vitamin E and selenium is not warranted for the prevention or treatment of dementia, but that doesn’t mean they should not be supplemented when needed.
Source: March 20, 2017 National Institutes of Health