Photo of a glass of freshly squezed orange juice
The antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene are abundant in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables

Dementia sufferers are low in vitamin C and beta carotene

30 October, 2012

Natural Health News — Forgetfulness, lack of orientation, cognitive decline … these are among the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Now German researchers from the University of Ulm have discovered that the blood-concentration of the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene are significantly lower in patients with mild dementia than in others. It might therefore be possible to influence the development and the course of the disease through diet and supplementation.

Their findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s, the researchers note, is a neurodegenerative disease. Its symptoms are the result of changes such as when the brain protein amyloid beta clumps together and blocks synapses – communication pathways between brain cells. There is also degeneration of the fibrillae, which is part of the cell structure.

Oxidative stress – caused when the body reacts with oxygen and releases free radicals – is also thought to contribute. Antioxidants have the potential to protect against neurodegeneration.

Blood tests reveal deficiencies

In their study, the researchers have investigated whether the blood-levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene as well as lycopene and coenzyme Q10 are significantly lower in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients.

This small study involved involved74 Alzheimer’s patients and 158 healthy people. The 65- to 90-year-olds underwent neuropsychological testing and answered questions regarding their lifestyle and their blood was analysed for the presence of a range of antioxidant nutrients.

What they found was that the concentration of vitamin C and beta-carotene in the blood of patients with mild Alzheimer’s was significantly lower than that of health individuals.

Other anti-oxidants not influential

In this study no such difference between the groups could be found for the other antioxidants (vitamin E, lycopene and coenzyme Q10).

This remained true even when researchers took into account other factors that could affect levels of these antioxidants in the blood including education, civil status, BMI, consumption of alcohol and cigarette smoking.

Getting more vitamin C

Vitamin C is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is also a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals.

All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin C. Those with the most include:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits and juices, such as orange and grapefruit
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries
  • Watermelon

Vegetables with the most vitamin C include:

  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower
  • Green and red peppers
  • Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
  • Sweet and white potatoes
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Winter squash

And more beta carotene

Beta-carotene is one of a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments called carotenoids. The body uses beta-carotene to produce vitamin A and most of us get about 50% of our vitamin A in the form of beta carotene

Beta-carotene has been found to be helpful in treating a wide range of health problems including decreasing asthma symptoms, preventing certain cancers, heart disease, cataracts, and age related macular degeneration (AMD), dementia, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, infertility and skin disorders.

Sources of beta-carotene include:

  • Bright yellow and orange fruits such as cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, and apricots
  • Vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash
  • Other sources of beta-carotene include broccoli, spinach, and most dark green, leafy vegetables.

The more intense the colour of a fruit or vegetable, the higher its beta-carotene content.