2. Vitamin E combined with Vitamin C. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that should be taken by nearly all people, not just those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants help remove so-called “free radical” oxygen that is harmful to cells, especially nerve cells in the brain. It turns out that Vitamin E is more potent in the body when taken simultaneously with Vitamin C. These two vitamins have a synergistic effect.
For Alzheimer’s treatment, I recommend a morning and evening dose of 500 mg of Vitamin C. Then Vitamin E, which is sold as an oil contained in softgels, should be taken as two 400 I.U. (international units) or possibly one large 1,000 I.U. softgel, once a day, either in the morning or the evening. We have large pill containers for the morning and regular size containers for the evening. As a result, I give my mother the Vitamin E – Vitamin C combination in the morning, but for years I previously gave her the combination at night and found the same effect.
Unfortunately, not all Vitamin E is the same. Natural Vitamin E is called d-alpha tocopherol. The synthetic form of Vitamin E is dl-alpha tocopherol. I asked several pharmacists if the natural and synthetic forms of Vitamin E were equally good antioxidants. Without exception, each of the pharmacists incorrectly informed me that the two were equivalent chemically, but that the synthetic form required a larger quantity to yield the 400 I.U. standard. Therefore, if a 400 I.U. natural Vitamin E were placed side-by-side with a synthetic Vitamin E softgel, the natural E softgel would be smaller than the synthetic E softgel. The chart below show the chemical structure of natural Vitamin E and its isomer, Synthetic Vitamin E.
However, it turns out all of these pharmacists were dead wrong on the body’s ability to use synthetic Vitamin E as an antioxidant. The synthetic form of Vitamin E is an isomer of the natural molecule, but the body can readily detect the change. Whereas natural Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, the synthetic form of Vitamin E may or may not have any antioxidant properties for any given patient. In fact, a physical chemist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory expressed it to me this way: “The synthetic form of Vitamin E hopefully will not cause harm, but it does little good in the body.” The interested reader is encouraged to search on the Internet for web pages describing “synthetic Vitamin E” along with “natural Vitamin E” to find hundreds of web pages decrying the use and efficacy of synthetic Vitamin E.
Most synthetic Vitamin E softgels contain a water-insoluble oil that could conceivably clog arteries similar to very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). When the mainstream news media puts out medical alerts that Vitamin E can cause heart attacks, they are invariably reporting on findings using solely the synthetic form of Vitamin E.
Natural Vitamin E is a wonder drug and has numerous other properties that aid the cardiovascular system, e.g., it thins the blood and creates easier flow to capillaries. At a time when my mother was taking the anticoagulant drug Warfarin (marketed under brand name Coumadin), a board-certified cardiologist said she should stop taking Vitamin E, because it interfered in the Coumadin testing. I promptly responded under NO CIRCUMSTANCES would she stop taking Vitamin E, and we would simply reduce the dosage of Coumadin. If your doctor is not smart enough to realize that Vitamin E can easily be taken concurrent with anticoagulant therapy, then fire the doctor.
Caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease requires intelligence. Anyone who would stop giving an Alzheimer’s patient Vitamin E because of faulty reports on adverse effects in the media should not be entrusted to make decisions on behalf of the Alzheimer’s patient. Everyone needs to understand once and for all that natural Vitamin E is truly an important scientific and medical discovery with very significant good effects on the human body. Never let the media deter your decision to give Alzheimer’s patients 800 I.U. each day.
Why give the patient 800 I.U. and not 400 I.U. or 1200 I.U.? Most of the clinical trials testing the efficacy of Vitamin E for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have settled on 800 I.U. as the dosage. Also, that dosage has been studied in long term use by patients and has been found to be safe. Higher doses may cause side effects long term.
Most discount stores sell the cheap form of Vitamin E: the synthetic form that has dubious benefits and potential risks to human health. Any time a store offers a “buy one, get one free” sale on Vitamin E, that is usually a tipoff that the store is selling the poorer quality synthetic chemical, dl-alpha tocopherol.
I give my mother a “mixed tocopherol” blend of d-alpha, d-beta, d-gamma, and other tocopherols. This product is sold by specialty vitamin retailers. By ordering it in large quantities, I can obtain the good form of natural Vitamin E for a price only slightly higher than what the discount stores charge for the junk synthetic form.
Two 500 mg pills was selected as the dose of Vitamin C to help compensate for inadequate fruit and fruit juices in most Alzheimer’s patients daily diets. Alzheimer’s patients who daily consume fruit in abundance may only need one daily 500 mg tablet of Vitamin C.
NOTE ADDED DECEMBER 2010: At the time I wrote this short article in 2006, the best form of Vitamin E commercially available was a mixed tocopherol containing alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherols. Now, the best form of Vitamin E contains both mixed tocopherols and mixed tocotrienols.
COMMENT FROM READER ON 2/15/2012: I read the very informative article on your website on the benefits of quality vitamin e in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. I have looked everywhere but cannot seem to find anything but synthetic vitamin e products online. Could you recommend a website where I can find the real stuff? I’d greatly appreciate it.
REPLY ON 2/15/2012: Yes, I purchase natural Vitamin E from http://puritan.com and also from http://swansonvitamins.com Be careful to purchase a Vitamin E product that contains both mixed tocopherols and mixed tocotrienols. Where Vitamin E is commonly defined as “d-alpha-tocopherol” in fact d-gamma-tocopherol is very important. So you will want mixed tocopherols. Tocotrienols are one of the latest discoveries. The more the mix of tocotrienols the better.
NOTE ADDED 6/30/2012:
Men, don’t be surprised if your doctor tells you to stop taking vitamin E.
After all, he might have seen this… “Dietary supplementation with vitamin E significantly increased the risk of prostate cancer among healthy men.”
That’s the shocking conclusion of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
What’s more, it was a “gold standard” placebo-controlled study. AND it involved many men over many years.
Except that it’s actually anything but.
This study might have provided an important breakthrough in our understanding of vitamin E.
Instead, it’s no more than an expensive blunder. That’s because the researchers got everything right except for one critical detail.
They used a synthetic form of vitamin E. Which is junk.
As Dr. Spreen has cautioned many times, this form of E supplement should only be used EXTERNALLY. As he puts it, “it’s a molecule shape that the body is not designed to handle.”
If the researchers had wanted to put vitamin E to a GENUINE test, they would have used d-alpha. Or even better — the full spectrum of tocopherols and tocotrienols.
But in using the synthetic form, they simply wasted their time. And they put thousands of men through a very long pointless exercise.
But maybe not entirely pointless.
Researchers have known for decades that selenium enhances the effectiveness of vitamin E. And that proved true here.
Subjects in this study who took both E and selenium had prostate cancer rates that were very close to rates in the placebo group.
So if researchers had given subjects the proper form of E, I believe the study would have produced VERY different results. In other words: prostate cancer PREVENTIVE results.
This was a golden opportunity — squandered. The only lingering question is whether they squandered it on purpose.
It’s no secret that vitamin E has different forms. Dr. Spreen hasn’t been keeping this information to himself all these years. So anyone with enough experience to conduct a massive vitamin E study would surely be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the different forms.
And…just for fun, let’s check the study’s Conflict of Interest Disclosures…
- Merck appears three times
- Pfizer twice
- Novartis twice
- AstraZeneca twice
- Sanofi-aventis, Abbott, Janssen, and Amgen all appear once
- One researcher helped develop educational presentations for a prostate cancer drug
- Another researcher is co-founder of Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals
All of that doesn’t add up to a smoking gun. But I’m finding it very hard to avoid the conclusion that the fix was in. ”