A recent study has found that taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E and selenium, does not, in fact, delay the onset of dementia as previously predicted.

Antioxidants have previously interested those in dementia research, as it has been commonly suggested that oxidative stress could be a leading cause of the condition.

Oxidative stress typically occurs when an individual gets older and is caused by an imbalance between a body’s antioxidant and free radical levels. It is therefore believed that taking antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium could help restore the balance needed.


No noticeable positive effect

But the results of research at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, USA, has found that taking these antioxidants did not have any positive effect on the delay of dementia compared to those tested who did not receive any vitamin E or selenium.

The study, conducted by Richard J. Kryscio and published online by JAMA Neurology, concluded by stating:

“The supplemental use of vitamin E and selenium did not forestall dementia and are not recommended as preventive agents.”


The trial - PREADViSE

The initial trial began back in 2002. Referred to back then as PREADViSE (The Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease by Vitamin E and Selenium), the trial was part of a larger project designed to study the effects of Vitamin E and selenium on the body.

However, when the larger project closed in 2009, the PREADViSE body of the project continued to run as a cohort study until May 2015 with half of its original participants.

These 3,786 participants were given either vitamin E, selenium, a combination of the two, or a placebo to analyse any effects in the delay of dementia.

To test for dementia, participants were monitored using a two-stage screen, and if cognitive impairment seemed likely in select patients, they were advised to consult a doctor.


Limitations of the trial

Researchers on the study, however, are aware of the limitations their study may have had. These include changing to a cohort study, losing half of their initial research group, as well as all participants being male.

“This conclusion is tempered by the underpowered study, inclusion of only men, a short supplement exposure time, dosage considerations and methodologic limitations in relying on real-world reporting of incident cases,” the article states in its conclusion.

Despite these limitations, researchers like Richard J. Kryscio, as well as research manager of Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Clare Walton, seem confident that further studies will still yield similar results.

"Although studies in the lab suggest that antioxidants could protect brain cells from damage in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, there is a lack of evidence from studies in people to support this theory,” Dr Clare Walton said.

"This large study found no evidence that vitamin E or Selenium supplements can play a significant role in reducing the risk of dementia. Given the fact that the trial only looked at men and was terminated early, we cannot completely rule them out. But it is looking increasingly unlikely that these antioxidants will play a big role in our armoury against dementia,” she continued.

But despite these setbacks, the researcher manager is determined to continue research into preventing and delaying the condition.

"Dementia is the biggest health and social care issue facing our society and is set to be the 21st century's fastest growing killer, so there is an urgent need to intensify research efforts to find ways to prevent or delay the onset of the condition.”


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