Studies show that taking 240mg of ginkgo biloba daily for six months can stabilize or slow decline in cognition associated with Alzheimer’s.1 While this is good news for people with Alzheimer’s, recent reviews of the research suggest there are no notable cognition-enhancing or Alzheimer-prevention capabilities of ginkgo biloba for healthy individuals.2,3
2. Alpha lipoic acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a synthetic version of lipoic acid, which helps cells make energy. ALA has antioxidant properties and might reduce inflammation.4 In healthy individuals, ALA can decrease oxidative damage within the body, damage that has shown to play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s.5 Clinical research on the supplement is limited, but there are several studies that suggest ALA could be beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s. One small study found that patients with Alzheimer’s taking a combination of alpha lipoic acid and omega-3 supplementation showed less cognitive and functional decline than patients taking a placebo.6 In addition, another study concluded that ALA alone could be effective in slowing cognitive decline for patients with Alzheimer’s.7
3. Polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in foods like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed oil, but it can also be taken in a capsule supplement, like fish oil or krill oil. One study of healthy individuals showed that eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-rich omega-3 supplementation resulted in better cognitive performance on memory tests and less mental strain during those tests compared to other types of omega-3 supplements, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).9 EPA and DHA are two separate types of omega-3 fatty acids.8 However, don’t ignore DHA just yet—this type of omega-3 fatty acid comprises 30 to 40 percent of the gray matter of the cortex and is needed for normal brain functions like neurotransmission, synaptic plasticity, and vision.8 Patients with Alzheimer’s disease might benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement—studies have shown decreased levels of DHA in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s compared to healthy individuals of the same age.10 This suggests DHA deficiency as one possible cause of cognitive impairment in people with Alzheimer’s.
4. Acetyl L-carnitine
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid compound that is made in the brain, liver, and kidneys.11 One study of patients with Alzheimer’s showed improvement in short-term memory when patients were given acetyl- l-carnitine, but be aware that these patients also experienced nausea as a side effect.12 In two additional studies, 1,500mg of acetyl-L-carnitine resulted in improved memory, mood, and response to stress in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment.13
5. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that has recently gained attention as a beneficial supplement for those with neurodegenerative diseases due to its neuroprotective effects against oxidative stress.14 There are a handful of studies that support coenzyme Q10 as a therapeutic option for cognitive impairment. In a study that evaluated the effect that creatine (a natural substance aiding in providing muscles with energy) and coenzyme Q10 had on patients with Parkinson’s disease, researchers saw a slowing in cognitive decline, and concluded that this combination therapy could have a neuroprotective function.15 In another study conducted among a Japanese community, deficiency in coenzyme Q10 was associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.16
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid that contains both amino acids and fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA work together with phosphatidylserine to provide the building blocks for healthy membranes. There are a few studies that show potential benefits of phosphatidylserine supplementation for Alzheimer’s patients. One study of 51 patients with probable Alzheimer’s were treated with 100mg of phosphatidylserine for 12 weeks. The patients receiving the phosphatidylserine showed an improvement on cognitive measures when compared o a placebo. Another study that evaluated 33 patients with degenerative Alzheimer’s who took 300mg of phosphatidylserine for eight weeks showed an increase in overall wellbeing but did not display any differences in cognitive function tests.18
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