Extra C and E associated with lower Alzheimer's rates

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

Health & Fitness

February 29, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

I just heard on the news that large doses of vitamins C and E have been shown to help stave off Alzheimer's in older people. Do you know anything about this? And if it's true, what constitutes a large dose? Apparently it is more than what is supplied in a regular daily multivitamin.

Scientists studied nearly 5,000 older people in Cache County, Utah, and determined that those who took extra vitamin C and E were much less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease (Archives of Neurology, January 2004). It might have been the combination effect of the higher doses (more than 400 International Units of vitamin E and 500 milligrams of vitamin C), since ordinary multivitamin use did not provide such protection.

What can you tell me about guggulipid? This herb is promoted to lower cholesterol. My cholesterol is 275, but I cannot tolerate statin drugs. Red yeast rice gave me hives, though it did lower my cholesterol.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Aug. 13, 2003) showed that guggulipid does not lower cholesterol better than placebo. In addition, it can cause a rash for some people.

I have been bothered with postnasal drip for months but have managed to control it by taking two stinging nettle capsules morning and night. I thought someone else might benefit.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is an herb that helps control allergic symptoms. A double-blind study found that it was better than placebo for relieving sneezing, sniffling and runny nose. We're delighted it helped with your postnasal drip.

Since the advent of Viagra and Levitra, the market has been flooded with herbal or homeopathic remedies for erectile dysfunction. Letters arrive in the mail almost every week with testimonials. I am sure many people believe the grandiose promises.

I suspect that many of these combinations of ingredients will not perform as advertised. Are there nonprescription items that work as well as the prescription drugs like Viagra or Levitra?

Before Viagra was developed, doctors sometimes prescribed a natural compound called yohimbine, derived from the bark of an African tree. Research suggests that it might be helpful in some cases of erectile dysfunction. One study, however, showed it worked no better than placebo.

Although yohimbine is available without a prescription, its use calls for medical supervision. It can raise blood pressure and heart rate to dangerous levels. Other side effects might include flushing, headache or dizziness.

The unpredictability of dietary supplement formulations is a concern. A product that seems like a bargain might actually contain little active compound.

Men who have erectile dysfunction should discuss the problem with their physicians. Sexual difficulties sometimes result from medication and might be helped by a change in the prescription.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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