Best way to stop memory loss is not from pills or supplements
Healthy older adults may want to skip vitamins, supplements and other drugs in hopes of keeping memory intact with aging. A review published by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital shows even the hormone estrogen for women might accelerate rather than protect from memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Understanding if there are real benefits for brain health from supplements, drugs or hormones is important. In some cases, vitamins in excess can lead to ill health effects, found in multiple studies.
Estrogen for memory decline has been suggested in the past, but some studies show taking hormones might accelerate loss of memory and poor judgment that can accompany aging.
Dr. Raza Naqvi, a University of Toronto resident and lead author of a new review said in a press release, the finding can give doctors and patients clues about strategies for preventing and treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The authors note problems with memory occur in 10 to 20 percent of aging adults each year.
The finding was taken from an analysis of 32 clinical trials that included 25000 patients.
The results showed no strong evidence that drugs known as cholinesterase inhibitors help for improve memory, yet they are often prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease. Examples of the drugs include donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine that block the breakdown of a chemical messenger in the brain known as acetylcholine.
Vitamins and fatty acids such as vitamin B6 or omega-3 fatty acids and the herbal supplement gingko were found to be no benefit for memory improvement.
Despite suggestions that physical activity promotes brain health and mental sharpness with aging, the current study found very weak evidence that exercise activity including strength training is beneficial.
Brain training may be best
The study may not have uncovered any pill, vitamin or supplement to help with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but the researchers did find evidence that computer games and one-on-one cognitive training might help.
The finding is especially important given the aging population. The Alzheimer’s Association states there are currently 5.2 million Americans with the disease. Among the figures are 200,000 American younger than age 65 with early onset dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 7.1 million by the year 2025.
The study authors suggest more research on the effects of brain training from crossword puzzles, Sudoku and cognitive training to help prevent memory loss from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Another suggestion is to eat a Mediterranean diet, found in the largest study to date to help stave off dementia with aging.
The current review found supplements, vitamins, herbs and medications are little benefit for cognitive decline. Exercise and activity can help us maintain overall health with aging, but was also found to be little help for improving memory.
St. Michael's Hospital
This page is updated on April 27, 2013.