2 Simple Supplements Can Cut Alzheimer’s Risk in Half

Putting the brakes on mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that often leads to Alzheimer’s disease, is a goal that has captured the attention of many researchers. One international team recently announced they had discovered that two supplements taken together can reduce MCI by half. 

What is mild cognitive impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment is a stage in which a person’s mental functioning is less than expected of normal aging and better than that associated with dementia. People with MCI typically experience some problems with thinking, judgment, memory, and language and are often aware they are having these challenges. However, these mental changes are not severe enough to disrupt usual activities and daily life. They also can experience depression, apathy, anxiety, and irritability.

Approximately 5 to 20 percent of people older than 65 have mild cognitive impairment. Of these an estimated 10 to 15 percent go on to develop dementia—usually Alzheimer’s disease—each year.

Also read: Natural Ways to Prevent, Delay, or Even Reverse Alzheimer’s Disease

In previous research, “the accelerated rate of brain atrophy in elderly with mild cognitive impairment can be slowed by treatment with homocysteine-lowering B vitamins.” Homocysteine is an amino acid that is a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia and can result in blood clots and atherosclerosis if levels are elevated in the body.

Mild cognitive impairment supplement study

In this new study, a scientific team expanded on this finding and conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to see whether a person’s baseline omega-3 fatty acid status interacts with vitamin B supplementation. A total of 250 people age 70 or older who had mild cognitive impairment were randomly assigned to take either B vitamins (vitamins B6, B12, folic acid) or a placebo for two years.

At the end of two years, the authors tallied scores for various cognitive functions and observed the following:

  • Among individuals who took the B vitamins, the higher their omega-3 status, the better they scored on three outcomes: verbal delayed recall, global cognition, and clinical dementia rating
  • When omega-3 concentrations were low, taking the B supplement had no effect on cognitive decline in MCI
  • When omega-3 concentrations are in the upper normal range, use of B vitamins interact to slow cognitive decline
  • For all three outcomes, higher concentrations of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) alone significantly enhanced the cognitive impact of the B supplement, while EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) was less effective
  • Scores among individuals in the placebo group were similar regardless of their baseline omega-3 concentrations

Also read: How to Outsmart Alzheimer’s Disease: 6 Key Things You Can Do

The findings of this latest study are especially important, according to Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, because they may “help us to tease apart who could benefit from taking B vitamins, suggesting that they might only improve cognition in people who have high levels of omega-3 oils in their blood.” In addition, the study results “suggest that for some older people a combination of fish oil supplements and B vitamins may help to improve thinking and memory.”

That said, the authors noted the next step should be to conduct a clinical trial in which B vitamins are taken along with omega-3 fatty acids to determine whether this combination can slow the conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease.

Are you and your loved ones getting enough B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids? It may be time to evaluate your diet and supplement regimen and talk to a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

[Editor's Note: We recommend the quality omega-3 supplements from our partners: Barlean's, and Nordic Naturals.]

Alzheimer’s Society. What is mild cognitive impairment?
Mayo Clinic. Mild cognitive impairment
Oulhai A et al. Omega-3 fatty acid status enhances the prevention of cognitive decline by B vitamins in mild cognitive impairment. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2016 Jan 6; 50(2): 547-57.
PsyBlog. 2 natural supplements together halves risk of mild cognitive impairment becoming Alzheimer’s
Smith AD et al. Homocysteine-lowering by B vitamins slows the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One 2010 Sep 8; 5(9): e12244

By Andrea Donsky| May 06, 2016
Categories:  Restore

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at NaturallySavvy.com. See my full bio here.

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