We’ve all had those moments where we forget where we placed our reading glasses or our car keys.
In most cases, we can brush these instances off as jokes because they don’t occur that often. However, there’s no getting around the fact that we will have more of those senior moments as we age, and the prospect of forgetting things more important than reading glasses can be scary.
Furthermore, we aren’t alone in these fears. According to the Pew Foundation, there were 70 million Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) and 57 million Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1983).1 Based on these demographics, odds are good your older patients are looking for ways to preserve, or even improve, their brain function.
There has been some recent research into the benefits of vitamins and supplements for improving brain health, which could help your patients concerned about their memory and overall brain function.
Let’s take a closer look at some of this research.
1. Curcumin and memory
An article published earlier this year in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry examined the effect of curcumin supplements on simple memory tasks for a group of 40 subjects between the ages of 50 and 90 with mild memory loss.2
The researchers also took PET scans of the subjects’ brains to examine the effect of curcumin supplements on amyloid and tau accumulations in the brain, which are often indicators of memory and cognition loss.2 Subjects were given either a 90-mg supplement to take twice a day or a placebo, and 30 subjects (15 from each group) also had PET scans at the beginning and end of the study.
At the end of the 18-month study, those subjects who took curcumin supplements had a significant improvement of almost 30 percent in memory and attention skills, compared to the placebo group.2
The PET scans of those subjects taking curcumin showed significantly fewer amyloid and tau accumulations than the scans of subjects taking the placebo. Finally, subjects taking curcumin also had improvements in depression and anxiety, which often accompany loss of cognition due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.2
2. Vitamin E
A 2014 article published in JAMA examined the effect of adding vitamin E supplements to help patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.3 A group of 613 patients were divided into four study groups: Vitamin E (2000 IU/d); memantine (20 mg/d); vitamin E and memantine, or placebo.
Over the course of the study, patients in the two groups receiving vitamin E showed a 19 percent slower decline of Alzheimer’s symptoms than those receiving placebo.3 Furthermore, caregiver burden was also reduced for these two groups.
3. Fish oil
Your patients likely already know about the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil, but they may also derive cognitive benefits as well.
A 2015 article in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association examined the possible protective effect of fish oil supplements against cognitive decline and brain atrophy in a group of older patients (229 cognitively normal individuals, 397 patients with mild cognitive impairment, and 193 patients with Alzheimer’s disease).4
The researchers found that those subjects who used fish oil supplements had less cognitive loss and less atrophy in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus of the brain.
An occasional moment of forgetfulness is probably not cause for immediate alarm. However, it could be just the thing that spurs your patients on to look into ways to maintain their brain function. Fortunately, there are several vitamins and supplements that can help them do just this.
- Millennials approach Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation in the electorate. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/03/millennials-approach-baby-boomers-as-largest-generation-in-u-s-electorate/. Published April 3, 2018. Accessed Oct. 28, 2018.
- Small GW, Siddarth P, Zhaoping L, et al. (2018). Memory and brain amyloid and tau effects of a bioavailable form of curcumin in non-demented adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled 18-month trial. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2018;26(3):266-277.
- Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, et al. Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer disease: The TEAM-AD VA cooperative randomized trial. JAMA. 2014;311(1):33-44.
- Daiello LA, Assawin G, Shira D, et al. Association of fish oil supplement use with preservation of brain volume and cognitive function. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. 2015;11(2)2:226-235.