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Live longer and better with vitamin E

Those with higher levels of the antioxidant vitamin E were less likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome or to lose physical ability, and taking vitamin E helped those with Alzheimer’s disease live longer, according to findings from three new studies.

In a chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) study, researchers found that blood levels of vitamin E were significantly lower in 50 participants with CFS than in 40 participants without CFS. Doctors suggested that those with CFS have more cell damage because of low vitamin E levels.

In a study of physical ability, doctors explained that there is too little research on how poor nutrition may impair physical ability in older adults and that helping elders live independently longer should be a public-health priority. Scientists randomly selected about 700 men and women, aged 65 or older, measured blood levels of vitamins and minerals and followed up for three years. Researchers tested how fast participants could walk, how many times they could get up out of a chair and how well they could balance in increasingly difficult postures. After adjusting for age, lifestyle and other factors, researchers found that those whose physical ability declined the most over the three-year period had the lowest levels of vitamin E. In explaining the physical decline, doctors said that low vitamin E levels may increase oxidative stress, damaging muscles and DNA; accelerate hardening of the arteries and injure nerves.

In an Alzheimer’s disease (AD) study, researchers followed about 850 men and women with AD, average age 74, for five years. During that time, those who took 1,000 IU of vitamin E twice per day were 26 percent less likely to die from any cause compared to those who did not take vitamin E. Study authors said, “Vitamin E appears to increase survival time of Alzheimer’s patients,” noting that, “This is particularly important because recent studies in heart disease patients have questioned whether vitamin E is beneficial for survival.”

Reference: Journal of the American Medical Association; 2008, Vol. 299, No. 3, 308-15.

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