Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5.4 million Americans. But the number of people whose lives are forever changed by the emotional impact of experiencing a loved one's mental decline is far greater.
Drug companies have worked aggressively to develop a treatment for this condition. And yet, the efforts have failed—miserably. No pharmaceutical intervention has demonstrated any meaningful effectiveness to treat or even slow the mental decline of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association published what I hope will become a landmark study. Researchers announced the results of a clinical trial of vitamin E in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. And their findings could revolutionize our approach to the treatment of this disease, the most common cause of dementia in America.
The study looked at the effect of dietary supplementation using 2,000 international units of nonprescription vitamin E daily in a large group of elderly Alzheimer’s patients and compared their results over an average of around two years to similar patients who received a placebo, a pharmaceutical marketed as a “treatment” for Alzheimer’s disease (memantine), or a combination of memantine along with vitamin E.
One of the standardized tests used is called the Mini Mental Status Examination or MMSE. This 30-question exam provides information in areas like orientation, arithmetic and memory, and is often a part of the standard neurological examination.
As seen below, the results in terms of slowing the decline on the MMSE were dramatic. Vitamin E showed substantial effectiveness while the drug offered no benefit and actually led to more aggressive decline even when compared to the placebo.