Exercise is Better Than Memory Supplements in Preventing Cognitive Decline

A long-held, popular belief in the health stratosphere is that supplements such as ginko biloba, fish oil, and many others have the power of boosting memory and preventing cognitive-related illnesses. In fact, millions of dollars are spent on these memory supplements every year.  According to the Nutrition Business Journal, Americans spent almost $91 million on ginkgo biloba in 2015.  However, many of the positive cognitive effects revolving around these supplements have been refuted by scientific experts and recent studies.

Take vitamin B12 supplements, for example.  Older adults and vegetarians who commonly have cognitive impairment due to a deficient level of vitamin B12, can eat vitamin B12-rich foods or take the memory supplement to improve their memory.  However, Orly Avitzur, M.D., a neurologist and medical director for Consumer Reports, says that those with normal levels of B12 will not experience that same mental boost from eating extra.

As for ginkgo biloba supplements, substantial research has shown that they are not effective in improving or preserving memory.  In one monumental study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008, over 3,000 participants at least 75 years of age or older were followed by researchers for almost six years.  Half of those participants were instructed to take 120 mg doses of ginkgo two times per day, while the other half took a placebo.  The study found that contrary to popular belief, ginkgo did not reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Fish oil is another well-known supplement that is believed to promote cognitive enhancements.  A few observational studies have shown an association between higher blood levels of fish oil’s omega-3 fatty acids and a lower risk of dementia.  For example, one recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease with 185 older adults aged 80 and over found that those who scored higher on a 10-minute cognition quiz had greater blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids than those who scored lower.  However, a review of data from three clinical studies from the 2012 Cochrane Library found that older adults over the age of 60 who regularly took fish-oil supplements for six to 40 months did not experience enhancements in cognitive function.

Instead of taking memory supplements, research has proven that engaging regularly in physical activity and following a healthy diet (particularly, the Mediterranean diet) are the best ways to prevent cognitive decline.  A study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that exercise was related to significant beneficial treatment effects in older adult patients with dementia and cognitive impairments.  Furthermore, exercise was found to promote positive outcomes in older adults related to physical fitness, cognitive function, and psychological wellbeing.

At the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi, we believe that older adults should live fulfilling and satisfying lives.  However, particularly for the elderly living in long-term care settings, this is not easy to attain.  Care staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as those in Industry and Inglewood, California, are responsible for providing their residents with the best quality of care to maintain their overall health and wellbeing. Contact us if you have been a victim of elder abuse or neglect in a nursing home or assisted living facility.