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.

  • Kathy Huish

    In conclusion, although there are many new AD treatment approaches under development, these are likely to be costly and have significant side effect issues. Prevention of dementia requires much greater safety and very few or no adverse side effects. Fish oil/DHA appears to be efficacious against AD with multiple pleiotropic activities in preclinical models and with some initial success in clinical trials with early (pre-AD) intervention. Larger trials in minimally cognitively impaired patients are warranted. The major advantages with DHA and related combined nutritional approaches with DHA and natural antioxidant (lipoate), polyphenolic (curcumin), or similar interventions are that individually these approaches have safety and side effect track records, broad spectrum utility in preclinical models, and low cost. There is a real opportunity to use them for prevention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838628/

  • kate Richards

    This is a fairly limited …and possibly misleading blurb.

    Yes, there are some horrid supplements out there in regards to quality, potency etc. Yes, there are some marketing hounds jumping on the band wagon, tossing together ‘the best’ neuro-support formulas..and targeting vulnerable consumers.
    However, if you can move past those obstacles, there are valid supplements that do support neuro health in a prophylactic fashion and after an Alzheimers Diagnosis.

    Are they guaranteed to stop , slow or prevent? NO.
    Have people had improvement in cognition, memory testing, and even emotional imbalance related to dealing with memory loss? YES.
    Is it expensive? Certainly, but it’s all relative, because this type of support is not covered by insurance that means out of pocket and not everyone can afford to go that route.

    Many of these supplements do not have the long term studies behind them that the medical community require to prove validity. It is extremely difficult to secure funding for these studies as a large amount of the funding does come from pharmaceutical companies who are only interested in studies that will support future products that generate profit.

    There is no doubt that once symptoms are apparent, there has been some damage done that is very difficult to reverse.

    The best thing for those of us with family history or high risk potential is to be proactive in every aspect of our lives. Lifestyle and stress management are directly related to the potential for memory loss due to cortisol related damage..

    This is just one example of a protocol that one of my customers is currently using:

    -Magnesium L-Threonate- 140 mg daily (3 capsules)(increased dose)

    -Acetyl L-Carnitine (suggested dosing )1000-3000 mg daily –

    -R-Lipoic Acid (suggested dosing 240 0400 mg daily) take 3 , 100 mg daily)

    -Huperzine-A (suggested Dosing 200-800 mcg daily) ( take 2 caps twice daily)

    -Co-Q10 (suggested 100-300 mg daily)

    – PQQ- (pyrroloquinoline quinine) (suggested use – 10 to 20 mg daily) ( 1 per day)

    -NAC (suggested daily dose 600-800 mg daily) (take 2 capsules daily one AM/1 PM)

    -GRAPE SEED EXTRACT- (suggested dose 150 mg) 1 per day)

    -Turmeric /Curcumin (suggested dosing – 400-800 mg daily) 1 per day /afternoon

    -Ashwagandha- (suggested dose 250 mg daily) t(take 2 caps per day /afternoon)

    -Omega 3 /Essential Fatty Acids – maintenance dose ( 2 soft gels per day)

    -Active B-Trio- 1 per day- MORNING

    -MCT- 5.4 grams

  • Duane Bamba

    Don’t believe this story. I guarantee there is already a cure for Alzheimer’s disease so why not cure it instead of slowing down the progress of the disease that benefits big pharma? Coconut oils, CoQ10, B12 and maybe even PQQ can cure Alzheimer’s disease regardless of the stage. Doctors and Big Pharma does not waht you to believe that.

    • Bertha

      There really is no “cure” or effective treatment yet for Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease ,because we still understand precious little about brain function ! In 25-30 years, we will be seen in 2017, as in the dark about these diseases that affect our brains, particularly as we age. What you say about being pessimistic about certain things is that a cure for Aids. HIV has been found over 10 tears ago ! The drug companies do not want it revealed because keeping people on these drug-cocktails for life is big and very profitable business ! A vaccine or cure would dry-up the extremely lucrative profits from people having to take these HIV med for life. HIV is a virus and its pathogens and mechanisms have been studied and well understood now for at least 10 years !

  • Bertha

    There is no magic-bullet here ….plain and simple ! However, you can do things to help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, like taking supplements daily of: Vitamin A and D, Krill oil, (Omega-3) ,Folic acid, Zinc,Vitamin-E and Co-Enzyme Q-10. All these bio-flavonoid rich supplements certainly can not hurt !

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