ALZHEIMERS and DEMENTIA – Can Supplements and Dietary Changes Help?

by Nils Osmar. 

This article should not be construed as offering either formal or informal medical advice. The content is intended solely for informational purposes. Any changes in your lifestyle or diet should be done in consultation with your doctor or health care professional. 


  • QUICK SUMMARY: 
  • AVOID SUGAR, and minimize fructose.
  • TAKE MAGNESIUM THREONATE – along with D3 and K2.
  • Take vitamins B12, B6 and folate.
  • Take LOW DOSE LITHIUM along with a little colostrum.
  • Take PS (phosphatidyl serine).
  • Take FISH OIL and KRILL OIL (in triglyceride form)
  • Drink GREEN TEA.

The New York Times recently ran an article declaring that supplements can’t help against dementia or Alzheimer’s. Their “evidence” was a study showing that some people who were given Vitamin E still developed Alzheimer’s.

Saying that supplements can’t help because one particular nutrient didn’t appear to help in one study, is more than a little silly. Whether vitamin E helps or not, there is evidence that taking other supplements very likely will. Here’s a list of things anyone can immediately do, which appear to have a protective effect.  (NOTE: For links, citations, and additional information, scroll down lower on the page.)

  1. AVOIDING SUGAR (including fructose from fruit). Low sugar berries, like blackberries and wild blueberries, are fine in small amounts. But fructose, even as it naturally occurs in fruit, can be dangerous, and should be limited. (Fruit juice, for example, is loaded with fructose, and studies suggest that it can be as damaging as high fructose corn syrup, to brain health.) Stop cooking with sugar, stop eating products made with sugar, and start limiting fructose, today. 
  2. TAKING MAGNESIUM THREONATE along with vitamins D3 and K2. Magnesium is important to brain health, but most forms don’t reach the brain.  Magnesium threonate is the only form of magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier. For best absorption, take magnesium threonate, D3, and K2 together.
  3. TAKING VITAMINS B12, B6, and FOLATE. B12 is essential to brain health.
  4. TAKING LOW-DOSE LITHIUM along with PROLINE-RICH POLYPEPTIDES (or along with colostrum, which the proline-rich polypeptides are derived from)
  5. TAKING PHOSPHATIDYL SERINE and phosphatidyl choline (PS and PC) supplements
  6. EATING BLUEBERRIES and other berries. To lower your risk of dementia, make them a regular part of your diet.
  7. DRINKING COFFEE
  8. DRINKING GREEN TEA
  9. COOKING WITH CURCUMIN or taking it as a supplement
  10. EATING HEALTHY FATS such as DHA and EPA (KRILL OIL is a great source of both oils) (Salmon roe is one of the richest sources of EPA and EHA in a very bio-available form)
  11. EATING BRAIN-HEALTHY FATS such as coconut oil and MCT oil (sources of medium chain triglycerides)
  12. AVOIDING BAD FATS, including trans fats, soy oil, and canola oil
  13. GETTING PHYSICAL EXERCISE, particularly HIIT (high intensity interval training). 
  14. EATING A KETOGENIC DIET (or if you don’t want to go that far, just shifting your diet toward being lower in carbs; higher in healthy fats, and moderate in protein)
  15. PRACTICING INTERMITTENT FASTING (or occasional PROLONGED FASTING). (Some folks do ongoing CALORIC RESTRICTION)
  16. Recommended reading

The Details

  • Some items on the list have been shown to prevent degeneration of neural pathways.
  • Others appear to promote neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons and brain cells).
  • To me the evidence is convincing that the items on the list below actually do have a beneficial effect. So I’ve incorporated them into my daily regimen. 

Eating a HIGH HEALTHY FAT, LOW CARB, MODERATE PROTEIN DIET

  • Recent studies have shown that high fat, low carb diets may protect against Alzheimer’s.
  • WebMD article: High Fat, Low Carb Diets May Help Alzheimer’s
  • From the WebMD article: “A new study shows mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease showed less of the brain-clogging plaques associated with the disease when they were fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet than mice fed a standard low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.”

Avoiding SUGAR (including sucrose and fructose)

  • Most people eat high carbohydrate diets, including sucrose, fruit, grains, rice, and bread products. Recent evidence suggests that the carbohydrates in these diets (including sucrose and fructose) may be related to the development of Alzheimers and dementia. So avoiding sugar may be a way of protecting our brains.
  • From New Atlas: Excessive Sugar linked to Alzheimer’s in New Study
  • From Science Alert: We Just Got More Evidence for the Strange Link between Sugar and Alzheimer’s
  • From the Science Alert article: “While researchers continue to explore what those mechanisms could be, it’s becoming clearer that none of us, diabetic or otherwise, should assume diets high in sugar are necessarily harmless to both body and mind.”
  • From The Atlantic: The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s
  • From the Atlantic article: “A longitudinal study, published Thursday in the journal Diabetologia, followed 5,189 people over 10 years and found that people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline than those with normal blood sugar—whether or not their blood-sugar level technically made them diabetic. In other words, the higher the blood sugar, the faster the cognitive decline.”
  • From the Atlantic article: “The group that ate the most carbs had an 80 percent higher chance of developing mild cognitive impairment—a pit stop on the way to dementia—than those who ate the smallest amount of carbs. People with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, can dress and feed themselves, but they have trouble with more complex tasks. Intervening in MCI can help prevent dementia.”
  • NOTE: Sugar from fruit (fructose) is considered just as dangerous from this perspective as table sugar (sucrose). 

Eating BRAIN-HEALTHY FATS (DHA, EPA and MCT OIL)

  • Some fats have been shown to be good for the brain. These BRAIN-HEALTHY FATS include DHA and EPA (from fish or krill oil) and MCT OIL (from coconuts or palm).
  • 60% of the brain is made up of fat.  The fatty acid DHA (found in fish, krill and some other seafood) comprises 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain.
  • According to The Journal of Nutrition: “Our recent literature review found 9 epidemiological studies associating increased fish consumption with reduced risk for dementia, including AD. Furthermore, 8 out of 10 studies found that higher blood (n-3) fatty acids were associated with reduced cognitive decline”
  • Another fatty acid from fish, EPA, has also been shown to prevent memory loss. See article: EPA Fish Oil Prevents Memory Loss, Offering Hope For Alzheimer’s Patients
  • To get both EPA and DHA, you can take fish oil or krill oil, or eat fatty fish. Fish low on the food chain such as sardines are an ideal source, because they are much lower in contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. Pacific salmon is also high in fatty acids and low in contaminants.
  • There’s some anecdotal evidence that MCT OIL (from coconuts) may prevent or reverse symptoms of dementia. This article relates one doctor’s experience using MCT with her husband, who was suffering from severe Alzheimer’s: Dr. Mary Newport, Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was A Cure?
  • Of course, people should also avoid certain fats, such as TRANS FATS. And there’s evidence that some oils which have been promoted as healthy may actually be harmful.
  • Science Daily article: Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning ability in Alzheimer’s
  • Pubmed article: A possible cause of Alzheimer’s dementia – industrial soy foods
  • Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience: Nutrition and Prevention of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
  • Journal of Nutrition Study: DHA May Prevent Age-Related Dementia 

PERSONAL NOTE:

  1. I’ve found it easy to add EPA, DHA and MCT oils to my diet.
  2. I eat sardines three or four times a week, and eat salmon roe every day.
  3. I take fish oil and krill oil as supplements. The best kind of fish oil I’ve found is Viva, which contains fish oil in a triglyceride form.
  4. I take MCT oil as a supplement, and also cook with it. (If I’m feeling tired after a day of teaching, but have more classes coming up, taking some MCT can make me feel mentally alert again.)

2. EATING BLUEBERRIES (and other berries)

PERSONAL NOTE:

  1. To me, the evidence that berries support brain health is convincing. And, they’re high in other beneficial nutrients… and taste great. So I eat a half cup of blueberries a day (with some raspberries, when they’re available).
  2. I eat pomegranates when they’re in season (they’re also great for prostate health). When they’re not in season, I take pomegranate powder in water.
  3. Folks eating low-carb diets can get some of the benefits of berries by taking extracts.

3. DRINKING COFFEE

PERSONAL NOTE: 

  1. I like drinking “half and decaf,” made from 1/4 cup of caffeinated coffee beans, and 1/4 cup of decaf. 
  2. As a side note, coffee is also useful for promoting a form of cellular deep cleaning called autophagy.

4. Taking MAGNESIUM THREONATE

  • This special type of magnesium is not available from food.  It’s only available as a supplement.
  • It was created by researchers at M.I.T. to bypass the blood-brain barrier, in order to get more magnesium into the brain.
  • There is evidence that taking this specific form of magnesium may improve mental functioning and reverse neurodegeneration.  (One study showed that people whose minds were slowing with age actually began functioning on the level of people nine years younger, after several weeks of supplementing with magnesium threonate).
  • Most studies were done with a dose of 1,800 mg/day. (Two 600 mg caps during the day, and one at night.) 
  • Article: Novel Magnesium Compound Reverses Neurogegeneration
  • Article: Unique Magnesium Compound Reverses Brain Aging

PERSONAL NOTE:

  • I take Magnesium Threonate as a supplement (two 500 mg. capsules in the morning, one at night)
  • I’ve found, oddly, that if I take more than 500 mg at night, it can keep me awake.

5. FASTING or CALORIC RESTRICTION

  • There’s evidence that taking breaks from food – in the form of either FASTING or CALORIC RESTRICTION — may help protect the brain against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other conditions.
  • Both short and extended fasts have been shown to promote neurogenesis, and to clean mis-folded proteins from the body and brain.
  • As a side note, fasting has been shown to dramatically increase the life span in both animals and insects, in laboratory studies.
  • Article (John Hopkins Health Review): Are There Any Proven Benefits to Fasting?
  • Article (New Scientist): Hungry Stomach Hormone Promotes Growth of New Brain Cells

PERSONAL NOTE:

  • I started fasting a couple of years ago because I was experiencing some health issues (I was feeling sick and low energy, with no obvious cause).
  • My health, and feelings, improved radically once I started fasting.
  • Some people may find it hard to start fasting, if they normally eat a diet high in carbs. I find it easy for the most part because I usually eat a ketogenic diet. (People on ketogenic diets are using ketones, not glucose, as a fuel, so don’t experience sugar cravings.)
  • I’ve tried different fasting regimens. I’m currently fasting 60 hours a week (from Sunday night to Wednesday morning).
  • I find going without food for two days (and three nights) every week to be an easy way to get in some fasting and autophagy, which is also very good for the brain.
  • If you’re new to fasting, or have health issues that might make it a bad idea, I recommend reading Dr. Jason Fung’s book, “The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting”, or watching some of Dr. Fung’s videos, before trying it.

6. TAKING LOW DOSE LITHIUM and proline-rich polypeptides (colostrum)

PERSONAL NOTE:

  • I sometimes take low-dose lithium orotate as a preventative measure. (I took a tiny amount, 5 mg a day, along with colostrum).
  • Some people have posted comments online saying they noticed a dramatic difference in how they felt, and their mental clarity, when taking lithium. I didn’t notice any effect.

7. TAKING B VITAMINS: B12, B6 and FOLATE.

PERSONAL NOTE:

  • I started taking B12 a few years ago when I was having short term memory problems. The problems resolved after taking it.
  • I’ve found sublingual B12 to work best for me. I currently take a dropper-full of Solgar Sublingual B12 every day. It also contains folate and other B vitamins.
  • My impression is that taking it gives me an immediate mental boost. I feel sharper and clearer for several hours after taking it.

9. TAKING PS (PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE)

  • PS is a brain nutrient that protects short term memory, and is also good for mood.
  • You can find PS supplements made from soy, or if you’re avoiding soy, ones made from sunflower seeds.
  • Taking it appears to have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s, and help control and counterbalance spikes in cortisol.
  • ARTICLE: Effects of Phosphatidylserine in Alzheimer’s Disease.

PERSONAL NOTE:

  • I love phosphatidylserine. I started taking it a few years ago when I was under a lot of stress, and trying to lower cortisol. I was also having some short term memory issues at the time. It immediately helped.
  • I like taking it in the afternoon. In the morning, it may lower cortisol too much.

10. OTHER FOODS, DRINKS AND SUPPLEMENTS:

  • DRINKING GREEN TEA and taking PQQ
  • TAKING VITAMIN D3 (D3, which is actually a hormone, not a vitamin, protects against dementia. Best taken with vitamin K2.
  • COOKING WITH CURCUMIN. The spice CURCUMIN, and its active ingredient, TURMERIC, have both been shown to have a protective effect against dementia. NCBI STUDY. 
  • MORE FOODS THAT MAY PROTECT THE BRAIN: “Superfoods that Fight Alzheimer’s”

More things to think about

  • The notes above are mostly about food and supplements. Other lifestyle changes, such as adding regular physical EXERCISE to your routine, have also been shown to have a protective effect.
  • NICOTINE PATCHES: May help memory and mental functioning in those experiencing problems. (Don’t appear to have a preventative effect.) See article
  • AVOIDING GENERAL ANESTHESIA: Some researchers have pointed out a possible correlation between undergoing anesthesia, and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (or much worse Alzheimer’s, if you already have it)  (Others deny this connection.) ARTICLE 1: Exposure to general anesthesia and the risk of dementia. ARTICLE 2: Alzheimer’s disease and anesthesia
  • FALLS AND CONCUSSIONS: It’s obviously a good idea to avoid falls and concussions, particularly if you’re older. Some types of traumatic brain injury may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. SEE ARTICLE: Traumatic Brain Injury