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Should You Take Dietary Supplements to Prevent Dementia?

- Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Americans spend over $25 billion each year on dietary supplements that promise everything from slender waistlines to better sex lives. A large and growing portion of this market is devoted to products that claim to improve memory or prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

But as researchers investigate dietary supplements to see if there is merit to the claims, they are coming up empty-handed. Ginkgo biloba, perhaps the most well known of the “memory enhancers,” has been declared ineffective by medical experts based on recent, high-profile studies.

Other dietary supplements are marketed for their alleged ability to boost memory or cognitive functioning, including phosphatidylserine (PS), choline, bacopa, vinpocetine, piracetam, lemon balm and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

However, the reality is that these dietary supplements either have not been studied extensively or have shown little potential. Part of the problem is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require dietary supplements to be tested to the same degree as prescription drugs.

Remember that there is no “silver bullet” that will undo bad habits, so continue to follow the fundamentals of good health: Exercise, eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet and do not smoke.

And if you do decide to take any kind of dietary supplement, always remember to use caution and inform your doctor. Dietary supplements can worsen certain health problems and interact with prescription drugs to cause severe side effects or render your medication less effective.