Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of senile dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 5.3 million Americans suffer from the disease. Alzheimer’s affects the brain, causing it to shrink, and is associated with the growth of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Short-term memory loss, impaired mental abilities, confusion and inappropriate responses are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Some supplements may be able to reduce the risk or slow progression of the disease.
According to a 2010 BBC News Health article, evidence is mounting that blood levels of vitamin B12 may be connected to the risk of developing Alzheimer's. The article references a Finnish study where researchers noticed that those with the highest levels of vitamin B12 were the least likely to be diagnosed with dementia. The mode of action is believed to center around homocysteine, a chemical made in the body that has been linked to increased risk of strokes and dementia. Adequate levels of vitamin B12 in the blood are known to reduce circulating levels of homocysteine.
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that can increase infusion rates of blood, and therefore oxygen, to the brain, which is why it’s used to help maintain cognitive functions. The Brain Research Institute at UCLA believes that ginkgo biloba may help improve memory and could even protect against Alzheimer's. In 2006, UCLA researchers found significant improvement in verbal recall among a group of people with senile dementia, who took ginkgo biloba for six months, when compared with a group that received a placebo.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid that has been studied in relation to Alzheimer’s disease for many years. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that several early studies showed that acetyl-L-carnitine might help delay the progression of Alzheimer's, relieve depression related to senile dementia and improve memory in the elderly, although a few more recent studies produced conflicting results.
Turmeric root is commonly used as a spice in curry sauces and contains curcumin, which has been studied in relation to Alzheimer’s. A 2001 study published in the “Journal of Neuroscience” found that curcumin extract supplements given to mice reduced their Alzheimer’s-associated amyloid plaques by up to 30 percent in just one week. Most brain researchers believe that preventing or reducing amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's patients is crucial because the plaques interfere with proper brain function and contribute to senile dementia.
Phosphatidylserine, or PS, is a fat and a primary component of the membranes that surround nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, nerve cells degenerate, so PS supplements have been studied for effectiveness. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, early studies based on PS supplements derived from brains of cows were promising in terms of reducing the risk of dementia in the elderly, but fear of mad cow disease discontinued those trials. PS supplements are now derived from high-quality soy extracts, although their effectiveness has not been studied in people.
- Alzheimer's Association: Alzheimer's Facts and Figures
- BBC News Health: Vitamin B12 Link to Alzheimer's Backed by Study
- UCLA Brain Research Institute: Ginkgo Biloba & The Brain
- University of Maryland Medical Center: L-Carnitine
- Journal of Neuroscience: The Curry Spice Curcumin Reduces Oxidative Damage and Amyloid Pathology in an Alzheimer Transgenic Mouse
- Alzheimer's Association: Phosphatidylserine