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Can Antioxidants and Estrogen Help Me Avoid Alzheimer's?

Antioxidants
Another promising area of Alzeheimer's prevention research focuses on highly active molecules called free radicals. Damage from these free radicals can build up in nerve cells and can result in a loss of cell function, which can contribute to Alzheimer's disease. Some population and laboratory studies suggest that antioxidants from dietary supplements or food may provide some protection against oxidative damage, but other studies show no effect. Clinical trials may provide some answers.
 
Several studies are investigating whether two antioxidants -- vitamin E and vitamin C -- can slow cognitive decline and development of AD in healthy older individuals. The National Institute of Aging (NIA) is currently funding an antioxidant clinical trial that will examine whether taking vitamin E and/or selenium supplements over a period of 7 to 12 years can help prevent memory loss and dementia.
 
Estrogen
Estrogen is a hormone that is produced by a woman's ovaries during her childbearing years. Once these years are past, estrogen production declines dramatically. Over the past 25 years, some laboratory and animal research, as well as studies in women, have suggested that estrogen used by women to treat the symptoms of menopause also protects the brain. This has led experts to wonder whether using estrogen could reduce the risk of AD or slow down the disease. However, clinical trials testing this approach on postmenopausal women have found that using estrogen to prevent Alzheimer's disease may not be effective.
 
One study showed that estrogen does not slow down the progression of already diagnosed Alzheimer's disease. Other research found that women older than 65 years of age who use estrogen alone or estrogen with a progestin might be at greater risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
 
Further research may clarify the possible role estrogen plays in preventing AD. For example, scientists now are trying to find out whether estrogen can prevent the development of AD in women with a family history of the disease or in younger women. Important questions also focus on the timing of estrogen therapy, with scientists looking at whether starting therapy around the time of menopause, rather than at age 65 or older, could protect memory or prevent AD.
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