Pharmacist Sherry Torkos Offers Nutritional Suggestions to Help Protect the Brain
Ever wondered if some of the supplements you’re taking (or not taking) could help protect your brain from dementia? I’ve been wondering about this question for quite a while. I’ve also been confused recently, due to news stories that came out in mid-December. These stories focused on recent studies and an expert panel’s report that concluded that multivitamins and other supplements were a waste of money because they have no proven benefits and can actually be harmful.
Yet, the declaration of these experts hasn’t been embraced in many circles – and caused quite a bit of confusion as well as a lot of debate. And while in an ideal world we'd get all the nutrients we need from our daily diet, I personally think that some supplementation can be beneficial and may be necessary.
That brings me to this sharepost, which features an interview with Sherry Torkos. Sherry is a holistic pharmacist, author, fitness instructor and lecturer. She’s a prolific writer – 14 books and booklets – and a regular presence on television and radio shows around the world. I had previously interviewed Sherry for shareposts for HealthCentral’s menopause and diet/exercise sites.
Those conversations got me thinking about supplements and Alzheimer’s disease, and Sherry graciously agreed to let me have a little bit more of her time to answer questions specifically on this topic. I hope you’ll find the information she shared as helpful as I did! Obviously, check with your doctor (or your loved one's physician) before starting to take these supplements.
Question: I saw a news account in December that reported that experts are recommending not wasting money on supplements as a way to ward off heart issues (which people with dementia often have) as well as memory loss. What's your response to these recommendations?
Sherry: I don't agree with that statement at all. There are certain supplements that have very well documented benefits for heart disease such as omega-3 fatty acids and coenzyme Q10, to name a few. As for memory loss, there are a lot of supplements promoted to help; some work and others are questionable. What is most important is to look to see if a product has been clinically researched and shown to be beneficial.
The evidence on ginkgo is mixed. Some studies have shown benefits and others have not.
Supplements that contain vinpocetine, a compound derived from periwinkle plants, have been shown to offer benefits for Alzheimer's with most research showing significant benefits.
Fish oils can help reduce inflammation and support and protect the nerve cell membranes. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for brain function. Those who consume fish regularly have lower risk of Alzheimer's. Those who do not eat fish may want to consider a supplement.
Certain antioxidants can also be beneficial. Oxidative stress is a key factor in the development of Alzheimer's and certain antioxidants may offer benefits by protecting the brain from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, reducing plaque formation and slowing cognitive decline. Among those that have shown some preliminary but promising benefits are tocotrienols, coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid.
Question: Are there specific supplements that you'd recommend people who are worried about developing dementia to take?
Sherry: For prevention I would suggest omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and antioxidants.
Question: Are there specific supplements that someone who is already experiencing memory loss should consider taking?
Sherry: Yes, the vinpocetine mentioned in the first answer. Also, consider taking acetyl-L-carnitine, an amino acid derivative that crosses into the brain and increases the levels of acetylcholine, a brain neurotransmitter that is depleted in those with Alzheimer's. It also protects the neurons against beta amyloid. Several studies have shown that it can delay the progression of the disease.
Question: Please share anything else that you would like people to know.
Sherry: It is important to maintain a healthy body weight as obesity and its consequences (diabetes and high blood pressure) are risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise is helpful to increase blood flow to the brain. Exercise the brain with crossword puzzles, reading and memory games.
Primary Source for This Sharepost:
Painter, K. (2013). Medical journal: ‘Case closed’ against vitamin pills. USA Today.