Fewer than 10 percent of patients took just vitamin E, while about 15 percent took neither the vitamin nor the medication.
The researchers found that patients who consumed the prescribed daily dosage of vitamin E appeared to extend their life span by 26 percent, compared with those not taking vitamin E.
The finding took into account age, gender, years of education, race, ethnicity, co-morbidities and severity of dementia at the start of the study.
Though there were some preliminary indications that the enhanced survival benefit associated with vitamin E was even greater among patients taking both the vitamin and a cholinesterase inhibitor, Pavlik and her team noted that the 26 percent bump held up even without the Alzheimer's drug.
However, those taking a cholinesterase inhibitor alone did not appear to gain any survival benefit.
"Much more research needs to be devoted to the effects of vitamin E on Alzheimer's patients," said Pavlik. "But for now, the door should not be closed on the option".
She pointed out, however, that although 2,000 IUs of vitamin E was the standard supplementary dosage of vitamin E given to Alzheimer's patients during the study period -- from 1990 through 2004 -- such high levels are no longer considered for routine therapy, as a result of studies suggesting that such a dosage might carry unwarranted health risks.
She also stressed that consumption of such high amounts of vitamin E on a daily basis has never been appropriate for the average person.
Eric J. Hall, president and founding CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America in New York City, described the finding as "interesting" and worthy of continued investigation.
"I think the medical comm
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