OBJECTIVE: To determine whether use of vitamin E and C supplements protects against subsequent development of dementia and poor cognitive functioning.
METHODS: The Honolulu–Asia Aging Study is a longitudinal study of Japanese-American men living in Hawaii. Data for this study were obtained from a subsample of the cohort interviewed in 1982, and from the entire cohort from a mailed questionnaire in 1988 and the dementia prevalence survey in 1991 to 1993. The subjects included 3,385 men, age 71 to 93 years, whose use of vitamin E and C supplements had been ascertained previously. Cognitive performance was assessed with the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument, and subjects were stratified into four groups: low, low normal, mid normal, and high normal. For the dementia analyses, subjects were divided into five mutually exclusive groups: AD (n = 47), vascular dementia (n = 35), mixed/other types of dementia (n = 50), low cognitive test scorers without diagnosed dementia (n = 254), and cognitively intact (n = 2,999; reference).
RESULTS: In a multivariate model controlling for other factors, a significant protective effect was found for vascular dementia in men who had reported taking both vitamin E and C supplements in 1988 (odds ratio [OR], 0.12; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.88). They were also protected against mixed/other dementia (OR, 0.31; 95% CI, 0.11 to 0.89). No protective effect was found for Alzheimer’s dementia (OR, 1.81; 95% CI, 0.91 to 3.62). Among those without dementia, use of either vitamin E or C supplements alone in 1988 was associated significantly with better cognitive test performance at the 1991 to 1993 examination (OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.04 to 1.50), and use of both vitamin E and C together had borderline significance (OR, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.995 to 1.39).
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that vitamin E and C supplements may protect against vascular dementia and may improve cognitive function in late life.