Science Update

New Review Demonstrates the Effectiveness of Nutritional Interventions for the Prevention of Cognitive Impairment

Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) are a group of conditions that cause mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. These conditions affect one’s ability to function socially, personally, and professionally. It’s important to recognize that Alzheimer’s disease begins long before the symptoms start, just like many other conditions. There is evidence that simple prevention strategies can reduce the risk of ADRD by as much as 50%.

According to a new review published two weeks ago in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, researchers investigated the current evidence on nutritional interventions for the prevention of dementia.

This review included 18 randomized controlled trials. Nutritional interventions of cognitive impairment were identified, including micronutrient supplementation, nutritional and lifestyle counseling, and fish supplementation. The sample size of the trial ranged from 20 to 640 participants with a duration of 2 weeks to 6 months.

As a result, 15 studies demonstrated significant beneficial effects on cognition. These results were based on supplementation with essential fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid/docosahexaenoic acid [EPA/DHA]) and micronutrients for specific cognitive domains, including attention and orientation, perception, verbal functions, and language skills. Greater effects were seen in older subjects with cognitive impairment. In addition, supplementation with B vitamins, specifically folate and vitamin B12, along with essential fatty acids, demonstrated promising effects to minimize age-related cognitive decline.

Most of the studies using supplementation with micronutrients were based on the hypothesis that lowering homocysteine plasma levels with vitamin B supplementation could prevent cognitive impairment. Homocysteine levels are an indicator of a potential vitamin B6, folate, or B12 deficiency, and are a modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline.

Other brain-supportive nutrients to consider are glycerophosphocholine (GPC), cytidine 5'-diphosphocholine (CDP-choline), gingko biloba, phosphatidylserine, and curcumin. GPC and CDP-choline are water-soluble forms of choline that can cross the blood brain barrier and support brain health. These nutrients help to produce more acetylcholine, neurotransmitters, and phosphatidylcholine in the cell membranes.

Each person's biochemical individuality exerts a major influence on his or her health. Lifestyle choices and environmental exposures filtered through genetic predisposition are fundamental factors in the expression of disease, and a successful treatment approach must include investigation into these factors.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: McGrattan A, van Aller C, Narytnyk A, et al. Nutritional interventions for the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia in developing economies in East-Asia: a systematic review and meta-analysis [published online ahead of print December 18, 2020]. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020:1-18. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1848785.