The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, September 13, 2013

LBD & Nutrition-2: Supplements in General

A balanced Mediterranean diet supplies most of the nutrition a person needs. A daily vitamin and mineral supplement is usually enough for anything that was missed. Except for that, it is best to use supplements sparingly, if at all. Researches agree that it is best to get needed nutrients directly from the foods for these reasons:

  • Effectiveness. Nutrients in food are generally more effective in combating dementia than the same nutrients in supplement form.
  • Regulation. Unlike prescription drugs or even OTC drugs, supplements are poorly regulated. There are no laws governing content. You can never be really sure the label is accurate. 
  • Danger. Some supplements can be dangerous when taken in large amounts or taken with other drugs. For example, the amount of antioxidants thought to be useful against dementia is often larger than a normal diet would supply. However, supplements in  these large amounts can be toxic to the liver or other organs.
  • Expense. Some supplements are both expensive and dangerous to use without a doctor’s guidance. CoQ10 is an antioxidant with the problems noted above. It can also conflict with prescription drugs a person is already taking. And finally, it is quite expensive.

There are only a few safe drugs even moderately useful in combating dementia and these are prohibitively expensive. Perhaps that is why beliefs abound about the benefits of various nutrients thought to improve cognition. Some stem from anecdotal reports, or personal stories. Others are supported with scientific evidence from clinical trials. These are studies with groups of people, some receiving the treatment and some getting placebos. Anecdotal reports do not provide adequate proof of a theory even when there are many such reports. Clinical trials provide better proof but still need to be replicated before their results are fully accepted, unless the studies are large and well-run.

Issue to be discussed more fully in later this blog series on nutrition:

  • Antioxidants (anti-ox-i-dunts): These nutrients are thought to combat LBD by  destroying free radicals
  • Water-soluble vitamins are fairly safe. The down side is that none of them specifically combat dementia. However, they may help to combat other problems like infection and stress, both of which can make LBD much worse. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids appear to boost the immune system and lower triglycerides or the “bad” fats. However, there’s a lot of confusions about which foods fit in this category. Other similar foods are Omega-6 fatty acids and are not so helpful. 
  • Coffee and tea may not be “supplements” but they have also been touted to be helpful with dementia.

Over the next four weeks this blog will all address each of the above subjects in much more detail. If you have comments or questions about any of these, be sure to speak up.

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