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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Dietary Supplements and Cognitive Function, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease

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June 2017
Senior getting checked out by a Doctor for alzheimers.

© Thinkstock

Concerns about forgetfulness and whether it is the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease are common, particularly among older patients. Your patients may also ask questions about use of dietary supplements, which are often marketed with claims that they enhance memory or improve brain function and health.

This issue of the digest summarizes current information on “what the science says” about several dietary supplements that have been studied for cognitive function, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Although a few trials of natural products for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia have shown some modest effects, direct evidence is lacking. In addition, research on some mind and body practices such as music therapy and mental imagery, which have shown promise in treating some symptoms related to dementia, as well as alleviating stress among caregivers, is ongoing.

Dietary Supplement and Summary of Current Evidence

Ginkgo biloba

There’s no conclusive evidence that ginkgo biloba is efficacious in preventing or slowing dementia or cognitive decline.

Read more on the research of Ginkgo biloba.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements

Several high-quality reviews have found no convincing evidence for the efficacy of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Read more on the research of omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Vitamin E

A recent systematic review found no evidence that vitamin E given to people with mild cognitive impairment prevents progression to dementia, or that it improves cognitive function in people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is moderate quality evidence from a single study that it may slow functional decline in Alzheimer’s disease.

Read more on the research of vitamin E.

Curcumin

There have only been a few clinical trials examining the effects of curcumin on cognitive function and Alzheimer’s disease, so there isn’t enough data to support the use of curcumin for this condition.

Read more on the research of curcumin.

Scientific Literature

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NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

Copyright

Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

This page last modified June 15, 2017