April 2023

Get Ready for Questions About Supplements For Dementia

Bruce Willis’ recent diagnosis is generating some buzz about whether any supplements can help treat or prevent dementia. You might get some questions about this. Here’s a quick review of some of the most commonly asked about natural medicines.

Ginkgo is likely to come up. Taking ginkgo by mouth doesn’t seem to prevent or slow down the progression of dementia, but it might improve some symptoms, including cognition and the ability to perform activities of daily life. Daily doses of 240 mg seem to be most effective. But make sure patients understand that ginkgo products are often adulterated with cheaper ingredients like rutin and quercetin, which don’t offer the same benefits as ginkgo. Recommend looking for products verified by a third party, and emphasize that herbal combination products, particularly those manufactured overseas, are frequently tainted with drugs and heavy metals.

It’s hard to talk about supplements for dementia and cognitive health without bringing up Prevagen. It contains apoaequorin – a calcium-binding protein that comes from the jellyfish species Aequorea victoria. Because apoaequorin has a similar structure to human calcium-binding proteins, some theorize that it might help regulate calcium in the brain and reduce memory loss. But there’s only one manufacturer-funded study showing that it slightly improves memory. Advise patients there isn’t any high-quality evidence showing that it helps. Also note, Quincy Bioscience, the maker of Prevagen, was forced to change product labeling and settle a nationwide class action lawsuit for making deceptive claims.

Questions about many other natural medicines, including gotu kolafish oil, and vitamin D may also come up. Explain that there isn’t any strong evidence supporting the use of any of these ingredients for dementia. Tell patients to focus on healthy lifestyle choices and to stay physically, mentally, and socially active. And reinforce the importance of a well-balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.