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Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Apr;77(4):975-84.

High-dose antioxidant supplements and cognitive function in community-dwelling elderly women.

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  • 1Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Experimental data suggest that oxygen free radicals are probably involved in the deterioration of cognitive processes.


Our objective was to investigate the relation of high-dose antioxidant supplements to cognition.


Information on the use of specific supplements containing vitamins E and C was collected biennially via mailed questionnaires beginning in 1980 from 14 968 community-dwelling women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. From 1995 to 2000, telephone tests of cognitive function [Telephone Interview of Cognitive Status (TICS), delayed recall of the TICS 10-word list, immediate and delayed recall of a short paragraph, a test of verbal fluency, and a digit span backwards test] were administered to the women, who were 70-79 y of age at that time. We used linear and logistic regression models to calculate multivariate-adjusted mean differences in test scores and relative risks of a low score for specific supplement users compared with nonusers.


Long-term, current users of vitamin E with vitamin C had significantly better mean performance, as judged by a global score that combined individual test scores, than did women who had never used vitamin E or C (P = 0.03); there was a trend for increasingly higher mean scores with increasing durations of use (P = 0.04). These associations were strongest among women with low dietary intakes of alpha-tocopherol. Benefits were less consistent for women taking vitamin E alone, with no evidence of higher scores with longer durations of use. Use of specific vitamin C supplements alone had little relation to performance on our cognitive tests.


The use of specific vitamin E supplements, but not specific vitamin C supplements, may be related to modest cognitive benefits in older women.

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