Potential treatment options are listed below in order from most effective to least effective, as determined by TeddyCanHeal's advanced software. Not every treatment will work for everyone, so talk to your doctor to determine what will be best for your individual needs. Many treatments may also be used in combination with one another or with medication.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant. You've likely heard people talking about antioxidants and their various health benefits, but what really are they? In simple terms, they are substances that help prevent other, harmful substances from damaging cells.
Certain chemicals, collectively known as reactive oxygen species (ROS for short), are necessary for life but can wreak havoc if left unchecked. The damage caused by ROSs is known as oxidative stress. Brain cells (neurons) are particularly susceptible to oxidative stress, and it is thought that this kind of damage to the brain contributes to the development of neurodegenerative issues such as dementia.
Antioxidants are great because they help mitigate the damaging effects of ROSs while not interfering with their beneficial activities. The human body produces antioxidants naturally, but it doesn't always make enough of them to meet the demand. This is where adding antioxidants to the diet can help.
Antioxidants like vitamin E are especially beneficial because they offer a wide range of health benefits with comparatively few side-effects to worry about.
A large amount of research has been done over the years regarding the impact of vitamin E supplements on those with dementia. In 1997, a group looked at the effects of vitamin E supplements on those with Alzheimer's and found that patients taking the supplements exhibited a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who were not. The following year, another study found that people with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia had lower concentrations of vitamin E in their blood than their healthy counterparts, and reported lowered antioxidant concentrations in general in people with dementia. The authors hypothesized that these lowered concentrations were the result of antioxidants being used up by the body in its attempt to mitigate oxidative stress.
Other studies have investigated the ability of vitamin E to protect against dementia and cognitive decline in general. One such study involved more than 3,000 subjects and found that those who reported taking vitamin E and C supplements were at a significantly lower risk of developing vascular dementia, and a similar effect was observed regarding mixed dementia. The supplements were also noted to improve cognition in general. Similar research has suggested that vitamin E and C supplementation also help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's. However, it is worth noting that there have also been studies that report no significant benefits to taking vitamin E for dementia.
Vitamin deficiencies are common in elderly people, as they often have more trouble absorbing nutrients from their food. Deficiencies in multiple B vitamins are believed to be liked to dementia and cognitive decline in general, but B12 has the strongest evidence behind it.
Vitamin B12 is important to neurological health in general, but is especially of interest because of its ability to break down a chemical known as homocysteine. Homocysteine is a harmful substance that his believed to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease, and deficiencies in B12 or the other vitamins that help to break it down (see later chapters) can cause it to reach harmful levels. Thus, it is believed that supplementing the diet with vitamin B12 can help protect against the harmful effects of homocysteine and treat the neurological issues that it causes.
Vitamin B12 supplements are considered safe and are not associated with any negative side-effects. However, it should be noted that the response time to these supplements can be long, so one should not expect to see immediate improvement.
Most of the research that has been done regarding the relationship between vitamin B12 and dementia has focused on the apparent impact of B12 deficiencies on cognitive health. In 1990, researchers found that on average, people with Alzheimer's-type dementia had significantly lower concentrations of B12 in their blood than their healthy counterparts. A similar study conducted in 2000 found that "...subjects with low levels of B12 or folate had twice higher risks of developing AD [Alzheimer's]." The authors of the study concluded by recommending that B12 and folic acid (see later chapter) levels be monitored in the elderly as a way to better detect, treat, and prevent Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
Other studies have looked at the relationship between dementia and levels of B12 and homocysteine. In 1998, researchers reported that those with dementia had unusually high levels of homocysteine and unusually low levels of B12 compared to their healthy counterparts. Four years later, another study found that higher concentrations of homocysteine in the body led to a significantly higher chance of developing Alzheimer's.
Like vitamin E, there is some debate about how effective vitamin B12 is as a treatment, and some researchers have found no obvious benefits to adding this vitamin to the diets of those with dementia.