Research is emerging on the role of vitamins and supplements in the prevention and treatment of dementia symptoms.
There is currently no proven cure for dementia, and people should be wary of advertising claims of vitamins and supplements. However, some studies are showing the promising benefits of some supplements.
Below is a summary of some of the vitamins and supplements that are gaining traction.
What is it: Curcumin is an extract from the well-known Indian spice turmeric. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that not only gives it a vibrant yellow colour, but also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin and turmeric have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body alone, and therefore must be taken with black pepper extract to increase the absorption.
Curcumin and dementia
Promising research has shown that curcumin could be used as a treatment for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as it may prevent the formation, and even break up the amyloid-beta plaques associated with it. Its antioxidant properties may also play a role in combating some symptoms of dementia.
Sophie, founder of Your Bodhi, a business selling curcumin, says “It’s really exciting to see more research into the potential benefits of curcumin for dementia patients. However, people need to do their research and make sure they are taking a high quality product to have the most impact.”
What is it: Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors.Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods such as oily fish and egg yolks and also can be taken as a supplement. Older adults require more vitamin D because they typically spend less time outside getting vitamin D from the sun and their skin does not produce vitamin D as efficiently as younger adults.
Vitamin D and dementia
Studies have shown a lack of vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of dementia and therefore eating vitamin D-rich foods or taking vitamin D supplements could delay or even prevent dementia.
Holland and Barrett state: ‘We make 90% of our vitamin D from sunshine, but even if you get outside during the winter months the sun is not strong enough for our bodies to produce this vital vitamin.’
What is it : Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthen the body’s natural defence against illness and infection. Vitamin E is found in a wide variety of food such as plant oils, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin E and dementia
Studies have shown that taking vitamin E may slow down the decline of cognitive abilities in dementia patients alongside taking traditional medication.
Solgar state that ‘Eating a healthy and balanced diet should bring you to sufficient levels of Vitamin E but unfortunately the diets of most people do not reach this.’
What is it: Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats that play an important role in the body. Omega 3 is known as ‘brain food’ and can have benefits for memory and learning in adults. Natural food sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, seaweed, and sardines.
Omega-3 and dementia
There is good evidence that eating fish, which contains omega-3, is good for your health. However the evidence on fish oils to date is contradictory with some studies showing a benefit in the increased consumption of omega-3 but others showing no impact.
Seven Seas, a supplier of Omega 3, state that ‘Modern diets are typically high in Omega-6 and Omega-9 but low in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.’
More research has to be done into the impact of these supplements, with larger clinical trials needed. Many of these supplements could be complementary to traditional medical treatments and lifestyle improvements such as improving diet, sleep, practicing meditation, stress management and many more.
Supplements will have different impacts on different people and anyone should consult their doctor before taking any supplements.
For more information, download our guide on how to live as well as possible with dementia.