Vitamin E and selenium do not appear to help prevent dementia. Many people may be disappointed in these results from a clinical trial of these popular supplements. But is there reason to remain hopeful that what we eat and how we exercise can affect cognitive function?
Could Antioxidants Help Prevent Dementia?
Over the last several decades neurologists have considered oxidative stress as an important risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why they hoped antioxidant supplements might protect older people from cognitive decline and prevent dementia.
Unfortunately, a new study in JAMA Neurology shows no benefit from either vitamin E or selenium or the combination. The study ran from 2009 to 2015 and included 3,786 older men. They were randomly assigned to get vitamin E, selenium, a placebo or a combination of the two antioxidants. The men took tests of their cognitive ability at a few times during the study.
An equal proportion of men in each group developed dementia. The authors concluded that the supplements were no better than placebo.
Is There Anything We Can Do To Prevent Dementia?
There are data to suggest that a Mediterranean diet does make a difference when it comes to cognitive decline and dementia. So, even though specific dietary supplements like vitamin E and/or selenium don’t seem beneficial by themselves, food with these nutrients is good for the brain. So is exercise.
We have always wondered why modern medicine insists on a reductionist way to study complex biological systems. Instead of trying to isolate one or two ingredients we suspect that a multifactorial process will be far better in the long run. That means LOTS of fruits and vegetables, fish and perhaps a glass of red wine now and again.