According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, with Alzheimer’s predominantly being the most common form. About 60 to 70 percent of all reported cases of dementia are diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.
Current Alzheimer’s Treatments
While there is no current cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are various prescription drugs, such as, Donepezil (Aricept), Galantamine (Razadyne), and Rivastigmine (Exelon), which are available in pill form and offer various levels of symptomatic treatment.
Unfortunately, modern western science doesn’t generally recognize alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
However, despite the complexities of the disease, there is speculation as to whether or not the structure of the medical industry itself affects the development and recognition of medicines and other treatments for Alzheimer’s.
For example, why aren’t the rising rates of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases an intense focus of public health investments? Is the fact that curing people is less profitable than symptomatic treatment affecting how we address this disease?
Whatever the case, solid scientific evidence should be a prerequisite to support any claim that a particular substance offers any medicinal benefits. These four alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s offer that.
Various studies evaluating the effectiveness of phosphatidylserine as a possible treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have presented some impressive results.
For example, in two separate studies, patients with either Alzheimer’s or who experienced memory problems displayed significant improvements in memory recall and cognition after phosphatidylserine supplementation.
However, these improvements were more significant among patients with less severe cognitive and memory impairments. This would suggest that phosphatidylserine may be more effective as a preventative treatment or as a treatment in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
How does phosphatidylserine work?
From the onset, Alzheimer’s causes cellular degeneration of your brain cells, which means that cell membranes lose their integrity. Without proper membrane function, cell signaling and communication break down, leading to symptoms such as memory loss.
Phosphatidylserine helps to form and support healthy cell membrane structures. Therefore, supplementing with phosphatidylserine may aid in the regeneration of brain cells, which is one of the reasons why some scientists believe it could be used as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Phosphatidylserine is a widely used supplement that is marketed for a number of purposes including sports supplements and nootropic supplements. It is generally recognized that a minimum dietary supplemental dose of 300 mg per day is required in order to receive any neuroprotective benefit.
Research into the effectiveness of ubiquinol, an electron-rich form of coenzyme Q10, as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is currently limited. Nonetheless, the current data demonstrate that ubiquinol is a worthy candidate.
Ubiquinol has some remarkable properties, some of which are that it supports energy metabolism in brain cells, along with providing antioxidant protection and therefore supports overall brain health.
How does Ubiquinol work?
Studies show that Ubiquinol may support memory and cognition by reducing amyloid pathology. Beta-amyloid is the protein responsible for the formation of cerebral plaque that causes the disruption of neural circuitry.
The build-up of high amounts of amyloid plaque in your brain can cause the death of brain cells and is associated with memory loss and cognitive decline.
Preclinical studies have indicated that ubiquinol also reduces the loss of dopaminergic neurons. Some scientists believe that there is a direct link between the decline in dopaminergic neurons and neurodegenerative diseases.
Ubiquinol supplements are increasing in popularity and are marketed for use with a multitude of purposes including sports supplements, heart health, cholesterol management, and brain health. Ubiquinol is relatively expensive and for this reason, is usually sold in lower doses.
To receive any neuroprotective benefit, a dose of 600 mg or more per day is recommended.
3. Acetyl L-Carnitine
Acetyl L-carnitine is purported to benefit brain health and supplementing with acetyl l-carnitine may help reverse cognitive decline and improve memory recall and cognition.
For example, the results of a double-blind parallel study indicated that use of acetyl l-carnitine, dosed at 2500 mg per day, may retard the deterioration in some cognitive areas in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Another small study tested two groups of 30 patients, each aged 65 years or over who were suffering from mild mental impairment. One group of patients received treatment of acetyl-l-carnitine dosed at 2000 mg per day for three months, and the other group received only a placebo treatment.
The results of the study showed that the group of patients who received the acetyl l-carnitine treatment displayed a statistically significant improvement in the memory tests, the attention barrage test and in the verbal fluency test.
How does acetyl-carnitine work?
Acetyl l-carnitine has a special structural shape that allows it to easily pass through your blood–brain barrier where it exhibits a neuroprotective effect.
Scientists also hypothesize that acetyl l-carnitine has a beneficial effect on Alzheimer’s because of its ability to serve as a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
The third property of acetyl l-carnitine that is believed to benefit Alzheimer’s disease is its ability to help preserve and stabilize cell membrane structures.
Acetyl l-carnitine supplements
Acetyl l-carnitine supplements are used for a whole manner of different purposes, including weight loss, ergonomic aids, nootropic supplements, and as a treatment for ADHD.
To reap any level of neuroprotective benefit, a minimum dose of 2000 mg per day is suggested.
4. R-Lipoic Acid
Scientific research provides compelling evidence that demonstrates R-lipoic acid can reduce memory deficits in both animals and humans.
R-Lipoic acid may also have an additional benefit in treating diabetes mellitus which is recognized as an increased risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease.
How does R-lipoic acid work?
R-lipoic acid can readily pass through your blood–brain barrier where it is thought to support memory recall through its ability to protect against oxidative stress, and improve energy metabolism in your brain cells.
For example, a study that measured biological markers for oxidative stress (associated with neurodegeneration), reported the beneficial effects of R-lipoic acid in reducing these stress factors which consequentially improved memory deficits.
Furthermore, R-lipoic acid has a more pronounced anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect when combined with acetyl l-carnitine.
R-lipoic acid supplements
Although lipoic acid is present in most foods, more so in heart and organ meats, dietary intake of lipoic acid is negligible. For example, the processing of approximately 10 tons of liver residue yields only around 30 mg of lipoic acid. It is for this reason that lipoic acid food supplements are always synthesized in laboratories rather than “extracted” from food.
It is important to note that lipoic acid supplements exist in two slightly different forms; R-lipoic acid (RLA) and S-lipoic acid (SLA). RLA is the biologically active form, thus if you are considering using a lipoic acid supplement pay careful attention to the product label and be sure to choose the RLA version.
A daily dose of around 300 to 600 mg of RLA should be beneficial in most cases.
Although Alzheimer’s disease is currently incurable, alternative treatments do show significant potential. Further research is needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of natural remedies for Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment. Nevertheless, there is legitimate clinical data to demonstrate the positive effects of some alternative treatments, especially in the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Combining all of the alternative treatments listed in this article, rather than supplementing with any single one of them, could potentially yield greater results by propagating a synergistic effect.
If you are considering using any alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease alongside prescription drugs, always check with your doctor or a qualified neurologist first. It is possible that there may be a contraindication.
Paul Jenkins, M.S., is a sports nutritionist, sports coach, and an advocate of food-based medicine. He is passionate about truth and promotes evidence-based alternative treatments. He is also a health and fitness blogger and he operates one of the UK’s largest sports nutrition websites at DNA-Lean.co.uk