Scientific studies, while useful and helpful, can sometimes leave you scratching your head, and not just because of the lingo. Particularly when it comes to health supplements and natural remedies, contradictions appear to be the order of the day. Studies, some recent, have indicated that B vitamins, as well as antioxidants such as vitamin E and C may help fight Alzheimer’s. Another recent study suggests that antioxidants may not be helpful. Who is right?
Okay, first let’s answer the question as to what are antioxidants for those who may be asking. Antioxidants are basically substances that may protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Next, what are free radicals? Basically again, free radicals are molecules said to be responsible for tissue breakdown, aging and the development of some diseases.
So, are antioxidants effective in fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia or not? According to some studies they are, but according to the one quoted below they are not. But there is something they both agree on, which we shall point out shortly.
The new study looked at 78 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease who were divided into three groups, one of which received the antioxidant cocktail. The researchers took cerebrospinal fluid samples from the patients and saw no difference in the amount of tau proteins and amyloid plaques – brain markers of Alzheimer’s – between patients in any group.
In fact, people taking antioxidant supplements showed a faster decline when tested on their cognitive abilities.
The researchers aren’t sure why the group taking antioxidants fared worse, saying more research is needed. The finding “raises a caution and indicates that cognitive performance would need to be assessed if a longer-term clinical trial of this antioxidant combination is considered,” the authors wrote in the study, published in the March 19 issue of Archives of Neurology.
“This should be a caution to the supplement manufacturers who typically sell products throwing in some mix of what seems like a great group of sensible antioxidants,” Dr. Greg Cole, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine who wasn’t involved in the new study, told HealthDay. “Everyone assumes that they will work well together and are good for you, but they don’t test them.”
“Many, many people are taking these kinds of supplements with really very little scientific justification,” added Dr. Ronald Petersen, head of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minnesota, to Reuters. He was not involved in the new research. “Just because something is ‘natural,’ it doesn’t mean that it can’t have some ill effects, especially if taken at larger doses.”
Peterson was not willing to write off antioxidants entirely, saying the supplements used in the study may have been given to patients when it was too late, after brain changes already occurred.
“It may very well be that we have to intervene with these types of therapies much earlier,” he said. See original story
Between the two seemingly contradicting sides on whether antioxidants are helpful in fighting or preventing Alzheimer’s, there is one consensus. Both sides agree that treatment should be started early, perhaps even before finding out whether one has the disease. By the time you find out, it may be too late and even medications cannot help reclaim lost brain cells. They say prevention is better than cure, but unfortunately cure is more profitable and therefore gets more attention.