20 Best Natural Supplements to Prevent Dementia: Guide and Review (2023 Edition)
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). In March 2023, the Alzheimer’s Association of the United States released its latest data indicating that there are about 6.7 million Americans aged 65 and above suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Without many breakthroughs in prevention, mitigation, or treatment, it is projected that this number could reach 13.8 million by 2060.
Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. It can affect memory, thinking skills and other mental abilities.
- increasing age
- a family history of the condition
- untreated depression, although depression can also be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
- lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease
Do Vitamins and Supplements Help With Alzheimer's?
Here are the best natural supplements that are supported by research and evidence.
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D3
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Soy Isoflavones
- Ginko Biloba
- Green Tea (EGCG)
- Molecular Hydrogen
- Coconut Oil
- Turmeric (Curcumin)
- Combined Metabolic Activators (NR, NAC, L-Carnitine and L-Serine)
- Centrum Silver Multivitamin
- Mushroom (Ergothioneine)
1. B Vitamins
Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
B vitamins, particularly vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), and B3 (niacin), have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation in the brain and protect against cognitive decline.
2. Vitamin D3 and Dementia
3. Omega-3 (DHA)Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in some fish and over-the-counter supplements. It is a building block of the brain involved with numerous cellular pathways.
A study (Huang 2022) examining nearly 212,000 cognitively healthy people concluded that regularly taking fish oil supplements was significantly associated with lower risks of incident all-cause dementia, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and other dementia—but not Alzheimer’s disease.
Increased beneficial effects of macular carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) were also observed upon their intake together with fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting a dietary synergism (Nolan 2018).
Make sure you buy high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplements, meaning that the omega-3 fatty acids are pure and have not oxidized much (having low “TOTOX” value).
I recommend eating fish 2-3 times per week and taking 2,500-3,000 mg of a monoglyceride formula or 5,000 mg of a triglyceride formula, once per day, with food.
5. Soy IsoflavonesSoy isoflavones are polyphenols found in soy products and other plants. They preferentially interact with a type of estrogen receptor involved in cognitive functions. Because they interact with estrogen receptors, soy isoflavones have also been studied for preventing menopausal symptoms and premenstrual syndrome.
6. Panax GinsengPanax ginseng is a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine (also known as Korean or Asian ginseng). Its root contains compounds called ginsenosides, which have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. Panax ginseng is purported to enhance longevity, promote cognitive functions, and alleviate fatigue.
8. Gingko Biloba
|Photo by Han Fei|
9. Geen Tea (EGCG)Green tea is prepared from dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, a perennial evergreen shrub. It contains several compounds that are possibly beneficial to brain health, including caffeine, catechins (polyphenols like EGCG), and L-theanine (an amino acid derivative).
In a separate study published in 2018, researchers gave mice with Alzheimer’s a quercetin-rich diet. Researchers found the diet improved brain function in mice with early-middle stage Alzheimer’s, although it had no significant effect on middle-late stage Alzheimer’s.
You may have heard that coffee is linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. There’s certainly some research to back that claim up. However, recent research has suggested that quercetin (not caffeine) is the primary compound in coffee responsible for protective effects against Alzheimer’s.
11. Lutein Optimizes Brain HealthWhile lutein is well-known for its role in eye health, its role in brain health is being increasingly explored. The connection makes sense, since as your vision worsens with age, so too may your cognitive abilities.
Research shows visual impairment at a distance is associated with declining cognitive function over time, while "maintaining good vision may be an important interventional strategy for mitigating age-related cognitive declines." (JAMA 2018)
Meanwhile, studies support the beneficial effects of lutein on brain health. In a trial of young, healthy adults, supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin improved levels of these carotenoids in the central nervous system along with boosting cognitive function. (Nutrients 2017)
Among older adults with a mean age of 73.7 years, lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation also improved cognitive function, including boosts in complex attention and cognitive flexibility domains, compared to those taking a placebo. (Hammond 2017)
Men taking part in the study also had improvements in composite memory. These benefits were seen with a daily lutein and zeaxanthin dose equivalent to that found in one-half cup of cooked kale or 1 cup of cooked spinach. (NutritionFacts 2023)
A literature search involving eight clinical trials further revealed that lutein and zeaxanthin in the blood or macula are associated with cognitive performance, and "there is an inverse relationship between a higher amount of macular pigment in the blood and lower risk of mild cognitive impairments or Alzheimer's disease." (Wang 2022)
- Dark leafy greens
- Egg yolks
- Red and yellow peppers
- Sweet corn
12. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil, as we all have been hearing, is a good fat; it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which our bodies can use as an alternate energy source by converting them into ketones. Our body’s first source of energy is glucose, and when we run low on glucose, we will break down fat and ketones are the byproduct — the alternate energy source.
According to Cognitive Vitality, a program of Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, with Alzheimer's "the ability of the brain to use glucose is impaired. Ketones are an alternative energy source for the brain and might be able to compensate for this impairment."
Currently, there have been several small trials testing the theory that the MCTs found in coconut oil are beneficial for Alzheimer’s:
- One trial performed on elderly individuals with age-related cognitive decline reported no benefit with the use of an MCT supplement.
- Another trial performed on patients with diabetes showed that MCT supplements preserved cognitive functioning related to hypoglycemia, which can cause a decrease in brain cells, especially if it occurs repeatedly.
- For patients who were carriers of the APOE4 genotype (a genotype that causes atherosclerosis, which in turn increases the risk for certain conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and brain conditions related to cognitive impairment), MCTs were not effective. For patients who were not carriers of this genotype, MCT supplements improved mild cognitive decline.
- There is currently a major trial being performed in the U.S. This study seeks to find whether coconut oil is safe to use in the Alzheimer’s population and whether it is effective in improving memory and cognition.
- Another study surrounded men and women with Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment. The participants were given either MCTs or a placebo. The researchers found that those who were given MCTs had increased memory improvements. This type of research led Emilie Reas, a postdoctoral fellow at UC San Diego who studies brain changes with aging and disease, to conclude that ketones (such as those from coconut oil) may be a "miracle treatment."
13. Molecular HydrogenMolecular hydrogen (H2) is a gas that is found in trace amounts in the air (0.00005%). It can act as an antioxidant and is thought to protect cells from oxidative stress-related damage. Hydrogen can be inhaled as a gas at low concentrations (1-3%) or infused into water. A saturated solution of hydrogen contains 1.6 parts per million (ppm) hydrogen. In preclinical models, molecular hydrogen was most beneficial when used chronically as a preventative measure, before the onset of pathology. Hydrogen therapy is generally considered safe.
14. SeleniumA small randomized, double-blinded, controlled trial comprising patients with AD has shown that co-supplementation of selenium and probiotics improves cognitive function as assessed by MMSE (Tamtaji 2019).
15. ZincA number of human studies have established an association between zinc and cognitive health in humans (Leko 2021).
16. Turmeric (Curcumin)
18. Combined metabolic activators
19. Centrum Silver multivitamin review: Can Centrum Silver Improve Memory in Older Adults?
The researchers estimated that taking the multivitamin daily for three years translated to a 60% slowing of cognitive decline—about 1.8 years.
“Three years of multivitamin supplementation did improve cognitive function,” Laura Baker, PhD, lead author of the study and a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, told Verywell. “People with cardiovascular disease appeared to have benefited the most from the multivitamin.”
Over 2,200 adults aged 65 and older enrolled in the COSMOS-Mind trial took part in the study, which was done over three years. The average age of the participants was 73 years old, 60% were women, and 89% were White. None of the participants had a history of stroke or heart attack at the start of the trial.
The results from the COSMOS-Mind study are encouraging and suggest that multivitamins may prevent cognitive decline in older adults and overall support healthy aging, but experts say that the study alone is not enough to make broad multivitamin supplement recommendations.
20. Mushroom (Ergothioneine)
Diet To Prevent Alzheimer's and DementiaThere is evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly those with high levels of antioxidants, may help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Antioxidants protect the brain against oxidative stress, which can contribute to brain damage and cognitive decline.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
This includes eating various nutrient-rich foods, especially those high in vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.
Dr. Nikhil Palekar, medical director of the Stony Brook Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease and director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, explained that the MIND diet is a low-salt type of Mediterranean diet shown to be beneficial for brain health.
“As it contains antioxidant-rich foods, as well as omega-3 fatty acids,” he said.
A low-salt diet has also been shown to benefit brain functioning independent of its action on improving hypertension.
“Given the above benefits, [the] MIND diet is highly recommended for healthy older adults as a way to reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease, along with daily moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, cognitive activities, and socialization,” said Palekar.
Saturated fats are mostly from animal products such as red meat, processed meat, butter, and cheese, though coconut oil is a plant source that is still high in saturated fat. High intakes of saturated fat can lead to high LDL cholesterol levels. One cohort study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a diet high in processed meat specifically had a correlation with an increased risk of dementia.
Family history is a large contributor for the risk of developing Alzhiemer’s. Neal Barnard says in widely watched TEDx talk that avoiding the bad fat can decrease risk of Alzheimers by 80 percent. This is even if you have the APOE-epsilon4 allele, the gene that is linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
Metabolic Health and Alzheimer's Disease
Don’t expect the mainstream media to report this, though. For years, we have been fed lies by prominent, mainstream media outlets. Take the pernicious idea that the consumption of chocolate on a regular basis can help you lose weight, for example. Let’s be clear: An occasional piece of chocolate, be it milk chocolate or dark chocolate, isn’t going to ruin your health. However, the idea that regular chocolate consumption is compatible with a healthy lifestyle is simply false. The same goes for red wine, an alcoholic beverage that is still being marketed as some sort of miracle supplement, an elixir capable of transforming your life for the better.
Exercise and DementiaThe University of Oxford and other research institutions in the United Kingdom published a paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (2023) in which the researchers conducted five surveys involving 1,417 participants aged between 36 and 69. The results showed that exercising to improve brain function is beneficial at any age and it is important to maintain exercise throughout life.
Instead, it focused on cardiovascular fitness, as measured by a stepwise-increased maximal ergometer cycling test. Cardiovascular fitness can be a measure of how well blood is circulating to your heart and brain. Study author and physiotherapist Helena Horder told Time, "If the small blood vessels and circulation in the heart are OK, then the brain is also affected in a positive way by good small vessel circulation."
Additional Dementia's Prevention Strategies
- Eat real food, ideally organic
- Replace refined carbohydrates with healthy fats
- Avoid gluten and casein
- Get sufficient quality sleep
- Intermittent fasting
Another study conducted in Australia measured coaching sessions, exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes. Those individuals had better cognitive results after one, two, and three years compared to those who didn’t receive coaching support.
Other studies have shown that staying mentally and socially engaged is not only associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease but is also linked to preserved thinking skills later in life. Staying socially and mentally engaged includes activities such as dancing, creating art, playing board games, reading, and playing musical instruments, among other activities.
Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Exposure to Aluminum
“This is the second study confirming significantly high brain accumulation in familial Alzheimer’s disease, but it is the first to demonstrate an unequivocal association between the location of aluminum and amyloid-beta in the disease. It shows that aluminum and amyloid-beta are intimately woven in the neuropathology,” explained lead investigator Christopher Exley, PhD, Birchall Center, Lennard-Jones Laboratories, Keele University, Staffordshire, UK.