There Is Currently No Proven Way to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Medical professionals and researchers have yet to prove that any treatment, therapy or brain training can help prevent dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, a lengthy new review concludes.
No medications, over-the-counter remedies or brain exercise programs have been proven in sophisticated clinical trials to prevent dementia, researchers with the Minnesota Evidence-Based Practice Center in Minneapolis states after a review of dozens of previously published studies.
“The upshot is there isn’t a magic bullet,” explains review co-author Mary Butler, co-director of the center and an assistant professor with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
The strongest evidence that the reviewers found was that healthy living is someone’s best chance of preventing dementia, Butler reveals. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising daily, monitoring and treating any health complication like high blood pressure and keeping socially active.
“Of those interventions we were able to find that were tested, the few that showed potential for benefit or even hinting at benefit are really very similar to the kinds of public health messages we put out there in general about healthy aging,” Butler said.
The researchers completed four side-by-side evidence reviews to test separate categories of proposed therapies and treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Physical activity. Low-strength evidence from 16 trials showed that combining different types of activity — exercise, diet and cognitive training — might improve performance on brain tests.
- Prescription drugs. No medications appeared to protect the brain in data from 51 trials. The drugs studied included those specifically for dementia as well as drugs to treat other health problems of aging, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and ebbing hormone levels.
- Vitamins and supplements. There’s no evidence from 38 trials that any over-the-counter tablets or pills can prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This included omega-3 fatty acids, ginkgo biloba and vitamins B, C, D, and E.
- Cognitive training. Brain exercises did not ward off dementia in 11 clinical trials.
“There is some moderate evidence that cognitive engagement brings some benefits, but those benefits are local,” Butler said. “If we train on memory, our memory might improve. If we train on processing, our processing speed might improve. But there isn’t any good evidence to directly link that to changes in how many people develop dementia.”