Good diet is essential for health. The use of vitamins and other supplements is often considered CAM even though it may not technically be so.
There is growing evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of these compounds, which are found naturally in fruit and vegetables, in preventing the development of Alzheimer's disease. Reviews of the existing work in this area have been done and several antioxidants have shown positive effects: in particular, vitamin E, selegiline and idebenone.
One study examined vitamin E (2,000 units daily), selegiline (10mg daily) and a combination of the two in Alzheimer's disease, for a two-year period. The results were positive, although there is some controversy over the way they were reported. There seemed to be fewer falls in the group taking vitamin E. The authors recommend replication of the study to confirm their positive results. A large study investigating the possible prevention of dementia in patients with mild memory problems by taking vitamin E daily is currently underway. A study of idebenone found it to have a positive effect in Alzheimer's disease, with a dose-dependent effect (a better effect with a greater dose). It was also found to be safe. Positive effect and safety remained good after two years on the supplement.
Weight loss in patients with Alzheimer's disease is a recognised problem. It seems to be due to lack of attention to proper nourishment rather than part of the disease process. Dietary supplementation can produce a significant increase in body weight amongst patients with dementia, as found in patients on a hospital ward. Nutritional awareness is important for elderly people in general: one study of 96 healthy individuals aged 65 or over found that dietary supplementation of vitamins and trace elements improved mental function.