Vitamins E, C and Age‐Related Diseases

Matt Pratt‐Hyatt, Ph.D.

Age‐related diseases are becoming more commonplace as the population's average age increases. These age‐related diseases include macular degeneration (AMD), hearing loss, and dementia. Many people believe that development of these diseases is inevitable, and that nothing can be done to control their occurrence; however studies have shown that treatment with antioxidant vitamins prevents and sometimes reverses the onset of these age‐related diseases.

As our population's average age increases, the incidence of dementia as well as hearing and vision loss has also increased. The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group projects that the rate of age‐related macular degeneration (AMD) in the United States would double from 2004 to 2020. The Better Hearing Institute reports that 3 in 10 people over the age of 60 have hearing loss. The development of vision and hearing loss can be a very stressful situation for patients. Difficulty with hearing can cause stress in social situations due to the production of muffled sounds, required frequent repetition of others speaking, and ringing in the ears. Loss of vision can also create its own difficulties such as struggles with reading and the decreased ability to drive over time.

Recent studies have found that antioxidant intake can have beneficial effects in the alleviation of these age‐related diseases. In 2001 the National Institutes of Health published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology of a study with 3,640 participants that indicated that supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc decreased AMD and vision loss. In 2013 a joint study between the University of Michigan, University of Toronto, and Seoul National University of Medicine found that patients that took supplements of vitamin C and magnesium had significantly better hearing at high frequencies. Finally a 2010 study of 5,395 participants who were 55 years and older found that patients that took vitamin E supplements were 25% less likely to develop dementia. This study collaborates an earlier longitudinal study in 2000 of 3,385 men that suggested that vitamin E and C supplements may protect against dementia.

These studies raises the question of how much vitamin E and C someone worried about age‐related disease should be taking. The consensus of these studies is that 500 mg of vitamin C and 400 international units (I.U.) of Vitamin E were sufficient to obtain these results. However, patients should consult with their medical practitioner before starting a vitamin regiment.

Clinical References:

  • 1. Kochkin S. (2001). MarkeTrak VI: The VA and direct mail sales spark growth in hearing aid market. The Hearing Review, 8 (12): 16‐24,63‐65.
  • 2. Age‐Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. (2001) A Randomized, Placebo‐Controlled, Clinical Trial of High‐Dose Supplementation With Vitamins C and E, Beta Carotene, and Zinc for Age‐Related Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss: AREDS Report No. 8. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001;119(10):1417‐1436.
  • 3. Choi Y et al. (2014) Antioxidant vitamins and magnesium and the risk of hearing loss in the US general population. Am J Clin Nutr. 99 (1) 148‐55.
  • 4. Devore EE et al. (2010) Dietary antioxidants and long‐term risk of dementia. Arch Neurol. 67 (7) 819‐825.
  • 5. Masaki KH et al. (2000) Association of Vitamin E and C supplement use with cognitive function and dementia in elderly men. Neurology 54 (6): 1265‐72.