Drugs and supplements may not help prevent cognitive decline in older adults

Updated: Apr 16, 2013, 19:05 PM IST

Washington: No evidence was found in a review of published research to prove that drugs, herbal products or vitamin supplements help prevent cognitive decline in healthy older adults.

The review, conducted at St. Michael`s Hospital, found some evidence that mental exercises, such as computerized memory training programs, might help.

"This review provides some evidence to help clinicians and their patients address what strategies might prevent cognitive decline," Dr. Raza Naqvi, a University of Toronto resident and lead author of the review, said.

The issue is of particular importance given that mild cognitive impairment affects 10 to 25 percent of people over age 70.

Mild cognitive impairment is characterized by reduced memory, judgment, and decision-making skills compared to someone of a similar age, but not enough to interfere with daily activities.

The annual rate of decline into dementia, such as Alzheimer`s disease, is about 10 percent.

Given that rate and the aging population, it`s estimated the number of Canadians with dementia will double to more than 1 million in the next 25 years.

Researchers including Dr. Sharon Straus, head of the Knowledge Translation Program at St. Michael`s, reviewed 32 randomized clinical trials involving about 25,000 patients.

They found no strong evidence for pharmacologic treatments such as cholinesterase inhibitors that were developed to improve the effectiveness of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that assists memory, thought and judgment.

Nor was there strong evidence that herbal supplements such as gingko improved cognitive functions or vitamins and fatty acids such as vitamin B6 or omega-3 fatty acids.

Some studies on estrogen actually indicated an increase in cognitive decline and dementia.