Ulm, Germany—A new study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that vitamin C and beta-carotene may play a role in deterring the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Researchers from the University of Ulm, including Epidemiologist Gabriele Nagel and Neurologist Christine von Arnim, analyzed the blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene and coenzyme Q10 in elderly individuals. It was found that participants with mild dementia had lower levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene in their blood.

AD is a form of dementia, or an illness that affects memory loss and cognitive skills due to the disruption of nerve cells in the brain. It is thought that oxidative stress may be a possible cause of this disease, and therefore varying levels of antioxidants may help with preventing the onset of AD.

In this study, 74 patients with mild AD and 158 healthy individuals were examined in the “Activity and Function in the Elderly in Ulm” study. The healthy control patients were of the same ages and genders as those with AD, and the average age was 78.9 years. All participants were asked questions about their lifestyles, faced neuropsychological testing and had blood analyzed. The results of this study showed that participants with AD had lower concentrations of vitamin C and beta-carotene in their blood, but all other antioxidants level were the same as the control group. 

The researchers took into account variables such as school education, intake of dietary supplements, smoking habits, body mass index and alcohol consumption, but were not able to consider the effects of food storage and preparation and the everyday stress in the lives of the individuals. More longitudinal studies still need to be performed to confirm any link between vitamin C and beta-carotene and the prevention of AD.

published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2012 (online 9/18/12)