5 Myths About Natural Supplements for Alzheimer’s

The health of the human brain is impacted by diet, but do natural products like herbs and other supplements affect its health?

The Alzhei5 Myths About Natural Supplements for Alzheimer'smer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) explains to us the impact supplements have on the brain, and if any have been shown to be effective in fighting the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn more, by looking at five popular myths about using natural supplements in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Myth 1: There are a number of natural supplements for Alzheimer’s

This myth is perpetuated by the fact that so many people are suffering from Alzheimer’s, and so many caregivers are hungry for anything that can help. The ADDF Assistant Director Penny Dacks, says, “The best natural supplements are safe, affordable, reliably sourced and backed by strong evidence to suggest that it may protect the brain,” writes Dacks. “Unfortunately, those are few and far between.”

Dacks pointed us to a great resource: Cognitive Vitality, which looks at a number of individual natural supplements and takes objective stock of the science behind them.

Myth 2: Coenzyme Q10 treats a number of conditions including Alzheimer’s

The bad news, says Dacks, is that “most supplements have very little evidence to support their use, particularly evidence gathered from humans” (as opposed to testing on lab rats). Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), for instance, is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in the body, and CoQ10 levels decrease with age. It’s become a popular supplement to treat Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, there is “relatively strong evidence suggesting it will not protect the brain.”

There is, however, some evidence to support the use of CoQ10 for high blood pressure and heart failure.

Myth 3: Taking natural supplements to fight Alzheimer’s can’t hurt because there are no adverse effects

It may seem that if the supplement at hand is natural, then there’s no risk in using it, but the truth is that we need to makes ourselves aware of potential side effects before taking or administering any natural supplement. For instance, Dacks notes that, “One natural product called Axona has clinical research to suggest that it can help some people, but it definitely does not help everyone, and it can cause some severe gastrointestinal side effects. Axona is somewhat related to coconut oil and contains medium-chain triglycerides.”

Myth 4: There are no natural supplements that actually benefit people with Alzheimer’s

You may hear that natural supplements have no benefits from sources who believe that supplements are “baloney.” But, when we asked Dacks if there’s a supplement that the ADDF is keeping a particularly close eye on, she replied, “Souvenaid is a promising cocktail of nutritional supplements with some clinical evidence to suggest that it can benefit Alzheimer’s patients. Doctors can prescribe it as a medical food in some countries (Europe and Australia, I believe) but it is not yet available in the United States.”

A recent randomized, controlled study of the effects of Souvenaid in patients with mild Alzheimer’s showed “increased memory performance” after periods of both 12 and 24 weeks.

Myth 5: Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) directly cause an increase in brain volume

Maintaining or increasing brain volume is understood to play a key role in preventing or treating dementia. Writes Dacks, “Several studies report that people with higher levels of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) tend to have larger brain volumes.” But, she cautions, “that doesn’t mean that the EPA and DHA cause higher brain volume – we need a clinical trial to prove that – but it does point in the right direction. To my knowledge, no clinical trials have tested whether EPA or DHA raise brain volume.”

But, that’s not to say that EPA and DHA’s effects on the brain haven’t been tested at all. “Several trials have tested whether EPA or DHA can improve cognitive abilities. In general, they haven’t seen a benefit to Alzheimer’s patients or healthy elderly people but some benefits have been reported in people with mild cognitive impairment.” There are a lot of unanswered questions. For example, “Would protection from Alzheimer’s require decades of relatively high EPA and DHA levels, as opposed to the exposure seen in a six-month clinical trial? We just don’t know… Eating fatty fish like salmon once or twice a week may be sufficient. Emerging evidence also suggests that while DHA can protect the brain of some people, it will not protect the brain of people who carry the Apolipoprotein e4 genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Do you or a loved one use any natural supplements to treat Alzheimer’s? Share your story about your experience with supplements in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Lynda

    I have heard that coconut oil is being promoted to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
    Has this theory been tested?

  • Laurie124

    Read the NY Times bestseller by Dr Perlmutter called Grain Brain. Diet and supplements to avoid dementia. My 80 year old mom has improved since on this protocol. No miracle cure but surely a slowdown and small reversal of symptoms. Even her neurologist says her cognitive tests have improved in the 6 months since he last saw her and she has been following this diet. Dr Perlmutter believes in using coconut oil.

  • Beth Williams

    Valerie Saxion, well know nutritionist, was handed the paperwork from a woman that researched supplements for Alzheimer/Dementia to help her husband. He was so bad that he could not remember anything and was basically mindless. She changed their diets to be healthier with lots of raw food and gave him the supplements that she thought would benefit him from her research. So about 2 yrs. later she called Mrs. Saxion and asked if they could meet for lunch so that she could share this experience and her findings with her. Valerie shared this on her TV program and said that the man was perfectly lucid and you could not tell that anything had been wrong with his mind. My grandmother and mother also had Alzheimer’s. Mom was probably in her late 50’s when I noticed her start changing but at that time I did not know the reason for the change. I took her to my homeopath when she was in her 60’s and she told me that mom’s body was like a toxic waste dump. So sad!

    • Jason

      Personally I would rather try natural solutions than poison my body with ineffective drugs which have more downside than up. My father is waiting on tests to confirm dementia. I have done lots of reading and the most promising to either slow the disease or boost cognition: pqq and coq10, phosphatidlyserine, curcumin, alpha lipioic acid and acetly l carnitine. The ‘mend’ method by UCLA university combines most. True is there will never a cure as the drug companies profits will fall!

      • Lauri

        HI Jason, What brand supplements do you use – pqq and coq10, phosphatidlyserine, curcumin, alpha lipioic acid and acetly l carnitine?

      • Ed

        Not diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s but my wife regained short term memory and cognitive skills with phosphatidlyserine (Puritan’s Pride 100mg, 2 caps 3 times per day) and Prevagen Extra Strength. I wasn’t aware of either but after prayer saw both on Christian TV programs on GloryStar satellite.

    • Michelle Smith

      Hi, My name is Michelle and my dad has what they are saying advanced Alzheimer’s, he cant get his words out and at night hallucinates, I do not feel the medication is working actually I feel it makes him worse. I am a HUGE believer in natural supplements and when I saw your story I was very interested in what supplements you used for your family member? I am devastated that my dad has gotten worse so quickly and I am op[en to any advice you can give. Thank you!!!!

      • Slider

        Give him virgin coconut oil 3x a day. He will improve.

  • Kenneth Brown

    Natural Supplements can used for Alzheimer~Heavy Metal Detox, Omega 3 Fatty Oil’s from Krill, Olive Oil. I’ve been taking Natural Supplements since the late 1990’s. !! I will not encourage nor indorse to any one to Take Natural Supplements”. I heard from a Dr. after he/she went to a Convention about Omega 3 Fatty Oil’s Krill.

  • Michael

    On 31 Dec 2013 the NYTimes published ‘Vitamin E Slows Decline of Some Alzheimer’s Patients in Study’: http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/alzheimers/ about the benefits of up to 2000 IU of Vit E d-alpha as originally published by JAMA: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1810379 .

    About Vit D3: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/vitamin-d-alzheimers/faq-20111272 – N.B: I would add at least 2-4000 IU Vit D3; 600-800 IU are most likely too low for a daily dosage. Some additional sun exposure would still be rather curative too.

    My 90 year old aunt receives Vit E and D3, and we added daily 4-6 capsules of IQBless http://www.naturewise.com.tw/en/page/65 made of green propolis, a neurotropic product to enhance memory, which is showing very positive results too and we expect further improvements.

    Furthermore, I have tried convincing patients within my family to take cold pressed 100% pure coconut oil. However, no one is willing nor able to take the required 3-9 table spoons per day.

    Last not least, we try memory training with a helper. A daily, short diary would be useful as recommended by many therapists. However, not even the most avid letter writers in my family have been willing to take up this suggestion.

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