The McDougall Newsletter

 July 2002    Vol. 1   No.7 <<<Home
Antioxidant Vitamins (in Foods) Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Two studies in the June 26, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found less chance of Alzheimer’s disease with more antioxidant intake.1,2   Antioxidants are substances that remove damaging compounds, known as free radicals, from our bodies. Damage caused by free radicals may disrupt normal cell function and lead to the death of nerve cells.  (Free radicals are very active substances that can damage our tissues.)  Lesions are present in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients that are typically associated with attacks by free radicals.  Therefore, it might be expected that antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E would prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  These two studies show an association between these vitamins in foods, not from vitamin supplements.  Vitamin C is only found in plants, and most of our vitamin E comes from plants.  So the most relevant conclusion is plant foods – by a multitude of mechanisms – may reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

But more importantly, it should be asked, what is the source of the oxidative damage?  Metals, such as iron, copper, zinc, and aluminum have catalytic activities that produce free radicals.   Iron, copper and zinc are nutrients, which are necessary for good health, but aluminum has no nutritional value and is a known toxin to our nervous system tissues.  Much evidence has accumulated showing aluminum is involved in the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.3  This metal generates free radicals and promotes inflammation – both processes involved in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.4

Therefore, in addition to eating a diet high in antioxidants (plant foods), you will want your diet to be free of aluminum.  This means you should avoid food additives containing aluminum, soda and other aluminum cans (canned vegetables are usually in steel cans), and aluminum cookware.  Another common way aluminum enters our body is through our nose.  Antiperspirants (not deodorants) are made of aluminum chloride and are sprayed into the noses of millions of unsuspecting people daily (aluminum is also absorbed though the skin in small amounts from roll-ons).


1)  Engelhart M.  Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of Alzheimer disease. JAMA. 2002 Jun 26;287(24):3223-9.

2)  Morris M.  Dietary intake of antioxidant nutrients and the risk of incident Alzheimer disease in a biracial community study.  JAMA. 2002 Jun 26;287(24):3230-7.

3)  Yokel R.  The toxicology of aluminum in the brain: a review.  Neurotoxicology. 2000 Oct;21(5):813-28.

4)  Campbell A.  Aluminum induced oxidative events and its relation to inflammation: a role for the metal in Alzheimer's disease.  Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 2000 Jun;46(4):721-30.


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