We worry about memory loss as we age. Are you a baby boomer who is just worried that you’ll become one of the 10 million persons who develops Alzheimer’s? Or are you just looking forward to improving your memory with memory supplements? This post will describe supplements that can help your memory.
Please note that the information provided here doesn’t constitute a medical consultation. If you suspect you or your relative/friend has Alzheimer’s, it is advisable that you consult a medical professional for the best advice.
The Benefit of Memory Enhancers
Imagine if there was a way of slowing down memory loss. If scientists developed a supplement that could effectively delay the symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the population by about one year, imagine what this could mean. That’s approximately 200,000 persons fewer persons with Alzheimer’s about 10 decades from now. This would translate into lower health care costs.
Additionally, prescription drugs for Alzheimer’s are very expensive and have been shown to have limited efficacy for a short period. They can also have side effects, which might decrease compliance. Memory supplements, on the other hand, are affordable and have a good safety profile. But, which ones really work?
Top Memory Supplements That Can Help You
The market is flooding with brain boosters, making it difficult for many people to tell which product (or brand) actually contains the nutrients their body needs. Furthermore, some manufacturers make claims that are not substantiated by research.
The following memory supplements have been shown in scientific studies to help with memory loss. You’ll also discover products that are worth taking to fortify your memory.
The leaves from the Ginkgo biloba tree have been used for several years in Chinese medicine. In the West, people take supplements to improve their memory and sharpen their thinking. It has been shown to be the most potent among other brain boosters.
What does research say about this supplement?
Study 1: This systematic review showed that Ginkgo biloba extracts were safe and effective in improving the symptoms in patients with mild cognitive impairment. However, the investigators could not determine whether it was effective in preventing cognitive decline.
Study 2: This systematic review and meta-analysis showed that Ginkgo biloba improved cognitive function and activities of daily living in dementia patients.
Study 3: This systematic review and meta-analysis also demonstrated that Ginkgo biloba improved cognition for in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular or mixed dementia.
Note that none of these studies showed that ginkgo could improve prevent dementia, although it could improve symptoms or stabilize them in patients who already had dementia.
Any benefits to healthy people?
If you’re healthy, here’s what you can get from taking ginkgo:
- It may help boost your mood.
- It may improve alertness.
- It may help your general mental health.
However, more research is needed to confirm its benefits for healthy people. Another point of concern with ginkgo is the potential for this herb to increase the risk of bleeding. People taking aspirin or warfarin might have a greater risk of bleeding if they also take ginkgo.
Ginkgo can also affect insulin or blood sugar. Thus, diabetic patients or persons with hypoglycemia should be cautious when taking ginkgo.
This Chinese herb extract is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. One study showed that huperzine A, administered at a dose of 200 μg twice daily for 16 weeks, appeared to improve cognitive function, activities of daily living, and clinical assessment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, further studies should be conducted to confirm its efficacy and safety.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid
This class of essential fatty acids has been a subject of research in several studies. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid include walnuts, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and canola oil, etc.
Here’s what research says about omega-3 fatty acid:
Study 1: This randomized controlled trial demonstrated that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids for six months in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease was associated with preservation of cognitive function.
Study 2: In this randomized placebo-controlled pilot trial of omega-3 fatty acids and alpha lipoic acid, investigators showed that a combination of omega-3 and alpha lipoic acid, administered during a period of 12 months, slowed the cognitive and functional decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies suggested that acetyl-L-carnitine might have a positive effect on memory and learning capacity. However, it seems acetyl-L-carnitine might be more beneficial in people with early-onset Alzheimer’s and those with a fast rate of the disease.
Several studies have shown that this potent antioxidant might have a beneficial effect on brain function. Nevertheless, the risk of increased fatal adverse effects has been reported in unhealthy people who take high doses of this vitamin. Consequently, you should always consult your doctor before taking vitamin E.
Ginseng has been used for several years in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in Asian countries. Although the benefits of ginseng have been demonstrated in a small group of patients, randomized clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of this supplement on Alzheimer’s have so far been inconclusive.
Potentially Harmful Memory Supplements
Although most of these supplements are naturally-occurring, this doesn’t make them safe. In fact, some of these supplements can interact with a drug and can be potentially dangerous adverse events.
This hormone is produced by the adrenal glands but it declines with age. DHEA has been shown to improve memory and cognition in experimental animals, although its efficacy in clinical dementia has not yet been proven. When taken for extended periods or in high doses, it may increase the user’s risk for some cancer types. Additionally, it has serious adverse effects.
This perennial, creeping herb has been used for thousands of years in India as a medicinal plant. Although it can potentially improve memory, it has a high risk of interacting with other drugs. Until there’s evidence of its efficacy and safety in clinical studies, it is best to avoid medications that contain this supplement.
While memory supplements have the potential to improve your memory and slow down nervous system disease progression, they can interact with other medications. To be on the safe side, you should always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking a supplement, even if the manufacturer claims it is natural.
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- Zhang HF, Huang LB, Zhong YB, Zhou QH, Wang HL, Zheng GQ, Lin Y. An Overview of Systematic Reviews of Ginkgo biloba Extracts for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia. Front Aging Neurosci. 2016 Dec 6;8:276. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00276. eCollection 2016.
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