Estrogen doesn't help prevent or decrease Alzheimers

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In its push to convince menopausal women to take estrogen replacement therapy, the medical and drug industries have made many claims about its health benefits. One was that it could help mitigate the effects of Alzheimer's.

That claim was proven false after a University of California-Irvine (UCI) College of Medicine study showed that the estrogen appears to have no effect on the course of Alzheimer's disease in older women who have been diagnosed with the disorder.

The study is the largest and longest to date that examines the role played by estrogen in Alzheimer's disease.

Estrogen had no significant effects on the course of Alzheimer's in women with mild or moderate cases of the disorder who were given the hormone for one year, according to Ruth Mulnard, associate director of UCI's Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia and leader of the study's research team.

"Several studies have suggested that estrogen helped improve the cognitive impairment that is seen in Alzheimer's disease," Mulnard said. "But we were surprised that over the long run, patients did not benefit from estrogen — a finding that strongly suggests that estrogen treatments should not be used to treat Alzheimer's."

The study involved 120 women nationwide, half of whom were given a placebo while the other half received estrogen. After a year, the women taking estrogen showed no significant differences in the course of Alzheimer's than the women who took the placebo.

The researchers did see a slight improvement in the cognitive abilities of estrogen-taking women after two months, but the improvement disappeared with continued estrogen treatment.

SOURCES: "Estrogen: No Effect Alzheimer's Disease in Women," University of California, Irvine Feb. 23, 2000.

Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 23, 2000.

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