Vitamins and other health supplements are a given for most of us, especially in these hectic times, when eating three square meals a day may be unrealistic. Three out of four Americans take at least one dietary supplement regularly, and for older Americans, this figure rises to four in five.
But some supplement companies have exceeded their purview, marketing supplements as unproven new drugs that claim to prevent, treat, or cure Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health conditions such as diabetes and cancer.
The FDA is taking swift action against such unfounded assertions, stating, “Such claims can harm patients by discouraging them from seeking FDA-approved medical products that have been demonstrated to be safe and effective for these medical conditions.”
False Claims Can Be Dangerous
While many people today turn to complementary and alternative approaches in hopes of reducing the symptoms of chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, there is a significant difference between stating that a supplement may help alleviate the symptoms of a condition, and claiming it can reverse or cure it.
The FDA has investigated a number of companies making the latter type of claims about their products for Alzheimer’s disease, which at this time is incurable.
This list includes a number of businesses that are continuing to illegally market products claiming to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s after the FDA sent compliance letters asking them to cease making such claims.
However, it’s important to note that the FDA is not opposed to the use of dietary supplements for health conditions; public safety is their first concern. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, states,
“Above all else, the FDA’s duty is to protect consumers from harmful products. Our second priority is maintaining product integrity: we want to ensure that dietary supplements contain the ingredients that they’re labeled to contain, and nothing else, and that those products are consistently manufactured according to quality standards. Our third priority is informed decision-making. We want to foster an environment where consumers and healthcare professionals are able to make informed decisions before recommending, purchasing or using dietary supplements.”
Dr. Gottlieb acknowledges the value of properly vetted products, adding, “I’ve personally benefited from the use of dietary supplements and, as a physician, recognize the benefits of certain supplements as a part of a comprehensive care plan. It’s clear to me that dietary supplements play an important role in our lives as we strive to stay healthy. Consumers need to have access to safe, well-manufactured, and appropriately labeled products.”
A Smarter, Safer Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease
While swallowing supplements and hoping for improvement is an easy way to deal with the symptoms of memory loss, if your loved one is willing to make some lifestyle changes, they may be able to reduce or even reverse early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, say two physicians who have published a book on the subject.
In The Alzheimer’s Solution, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai explain that for the majority of dementias, lifestyle and environment determine your risk much more so than genetics.
“The brain is two percent of the body’s weight, but consumes 25 percent of the body’s energy,” says Dean Sherzai, MD, PhD. “Some people say we only use 10 percent of our brain. That’s false. We use 100 percent of our brain, but at one percent efficiency.”
The rapid increase in longevity over the past century has stacked the deck against our brains, he continues. Originally, “Our bodies were made to live 30-40 years, reproduce, and die.”
“Humans have the most metabolically active brains in the animal kingdom. Our brain gets overwhelmed; we don’t do what’s necessary to build a reserve. Eventually the scaffolding underneath gives way.”
Dementia is not a point, he emphasizes, but the outcome of a lifelong process of choices and behaviors. By making positive changes — even as older adults — “We can actually push away from that precipice of clinical manifestation.”
What is most memory-protective is living a complex, healthy life. Doing so enables you to maintain powerful, vibrant cognitive capacity well into your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, say the Sherzais. They’ve developed a program known as NEURO to help people with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders regain their capacities, often to a remarkable degree.
How to Select Appropriate Supplements
Though the Sherzais prescribe lifestyle and nutritional changes over supplements, and Consumer Reports also takes a dim view that memory supplements are any better than placebos, it’s also true that a senior’s diet may not be adequate to absorb all of the neuroprotective nutrients he or she needs.
For example: older adults generate less saliva and stomach acid, making it more difficult for their bodies to process certain vitamins and minerals such as B12, B6 and folic acid, which are necessary to maintain mental alertness, memory, and good circulation.
Therefore, a good first step would be to talk with your doctor about possible supplementation. Some memory-boosting supplements to consider include:
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (found in fish oil and other sources)
- B vitamins
- Turmeric (an Indian spice that has been scientifically proven to improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease)
- CoQ10 (may help improve the side effects of statins)
- Acetyl-L-carnitine (an amino acid that helps improve alertness, focus and mood)
- Magnesium (a mineral needed for over 300 metabolic functions, including good quality sleep, which helps with cognitive health
Beware of certain ingredients that can cause liver damage, and even cardiac arrest. These 15 supplements are never worth the risk.
A Healthy Memory Begins Here
At The Kensington White Plains, we’re strong proponents of the type of healthy lifestyle Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai recommend. We understand how to whet a senior’s appetite with five-star menus that contain delicious, nutritious meals that boost brain health and immunity.
We also appreciate how important it is to keep senior bodies active and limber, and to stay engaged with life through any number of enrichment activities. Of course, we also provide peerless memory care for our beloved residents who live in our memory care neighborhoods.
We look forward to welcoming you to The Kensington White Plains!