Alzheimer's Disease supplements
Alzheimer's Disease

  • Ginkgo biloba has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Today, it is one of the top selling herbs in the United States. Ginkgo is used for the treatment of numerous conditions, many of which are under scientific investigation. Available evidence demonstrates ginkgo's efficacy in the management of intermittent claudication, Alzheimer's/multi-infarct dementia, and "cerebral insufficiency" (a syndrome thought to be secondary to atherosclerotic disease, characterized by impaired concentration, confusion, decreased physical performance, fatigue, headache, dizziness, depression, and anxiety). Although not definitive, there is promising early evidence favoring the use of ginkgo for memory enhancement in healthy subjects, altitude (mountain) sickness, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and reduction of chemotherapy-induced end-organ vascular damage. Although still controversial, a recent large trial has shifted the evidence against the use of ginkgo for tinnitus. The herb is generally well tolerated, but due to multiple case reports of bleeding, should be used cautiously in patients on anticoagulant therapy, with known coagulopathy, or prior to some surgical or dental procedures.
  • Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Vitamin E exists in eight different forms ("isomers"): alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherol; and alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocotrienol. Alpha-tocopherol is the most active form in humans. Dosing and daily allowance recommendations for vitamin E are often provided in Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE) to account for the different biological activities of the various forms of vitamin E, or in International Units (IU), which food and supplement labels may use. Vitamin E supplements are available in natural or synthetic forms. The natural forms are usually labeled with the letter "d" (for example, d-gamma-tocopherol), whereas synthetic forms are labeled "dl" (for example, dl-alpha-tocopherol). Vitamin E has been proposed for the prevention or treatment of numerous health conditions, often based on its antioxidant properties. However, aside from the treatment of vitamin E deficiency (which is rare), there are no clearly proven medicinal uses of vitamin E supplementation beyond the recommended daily allowance. There is ongoing research in numerous diseases, particularly in cancer and heart disease. Recent concerns have been raised about the safety of vitamin E supplementation, particularly in high doses. An increased risk of bleeding has been proposed, particularly in patients taking blood-thinning agents such as warfarin, heparin, or aspirin, and in patients with vitamin K deficiency. Recent evidence suggests that regular use of high-dose vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of death (from "all causes") by a small amount, although a different study found no effects on mortality in women who took vitamin E daily. Caution is warranted.
  • Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Folic acid is well-tolerated in amounts found in fortified foods and supplements. Sources include cereals, baked goods, leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, lettuce), okra, asparagus, fruits (bananas, melons, lemons), legumes, yeast, mushrooms, organ meat (beef liver, kidney), orange juice, and tomato juice. Folic acid is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex formulations.
  • Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland from the amino acid tryptophan. The synthesis and release of melatonin are stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light, suggesting the involvement of melatonin in circadian rhythm and regulation of diverse body functions. Levels of melatonin in the blood are highest prior to bedtime. Synthetic melatonin supplements have been used for a variety of medical conditions, most notably for disorders related to sleep. Melatonin possesses antioxidant activity, and many of its proposed therapeutic or preventive uses are based on this property. New drugs that block the effects of melatonin are in development, such as BMS-214778 or luzindole, and may have uses in various disorders.
  • Vitamin B3 is made up of niacin (nicotinic acid) and its amide, niacinamide, and can be found in many foods, including yeast, meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, and cereal grains. Dietary tryptophan is also converted to niacin in the body. Vitamin B3 is often found in combination with other B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, cyanocobalamin, and folic acid.
  • Thiamin (also spelled "thiamine") is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin, previously known as vitamin B1 or aneurine. Thiamin was isolated and characterized in the 1920s, and thus was one of the first organic compounds to be recognized as a vitamin. Thiamin is involved in numerous body functions, including: nervous system and muscle functioning; flow of electrolytes in and out of nerve and muscle cells (through ion channels); multiple enzyme processes (via the coenzyme thiamin pyrophosphate); carbohydrate metabolism; and production of hydrochloric acid (which is necessary for proper digestion). Because there is very little thiamin stored in the body, depletion can occur as quickly as within 14 days. Severe chronic thiamin deficiency (beriberi) can result in potentially serious complications involving the nervous system/brain, muscles, heart, and gastrointestinal system. Dietary sources of thiamin include beef, brewer's yeast, legumes (beans, lentils), milk, nuts, oats, oranges, pork, rice, seeds, wheat, whole grain cereals, and yeast. In industrialized countries, foods made with white rice or white flour are often fortified with thiamin (because most of the naturally occurring thiamin is lost during the refinement process).
  • DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an endogenous hormone (made in the human body) secreted by the adrenal gland. DHEA serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). DHEA levels in the body begin to decrease after age 30, and are reported to be low in some people with anorexia, end-stage kidney disease, type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes), AIDS, adrenal insufficiency, and in the critically ill. DHEA levels may also be depleted by a number of drugs, including insulin, corticosteroids, opiates, and danazol. There is sufficient evidence supporting the use of DHEA in the treatment of adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus. There is a lack of available studies on the long-term effects of DHEA. However, DHEA may cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens in the body, and theoretically may increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers. Therefore, it is not recommended for regular use without supervision by a licensed healthcare professional.
  • DHEA is a weak male hormone produced in both men and women. It is released by the adrenal glands. The DHEA-producing adrenal glands are small, triangular shaped glands located above the kidneys. The outer layer of the glands makes hormones that ha...
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is produced by the human body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells. CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Some prescription drugs may also lower CoQ10 levels. Levels of CoQ10 in the body can be increased by taking CoQ10 supplements, although it is not clear that replacing "low CoQ10" is beneficial. CoQ10 has been used, recommended, or studied for numerous conditions, but remains controversial as a treatment in many areas.
  • The main function of L-carnitine is to transfer long-chain fatty acids in the form of their acyl-carnitine esters across the inner mitochondrial membrane before beta-oxidation. In humans, it is synthesized in the liver, kidney, and brain and actively transported to other areas of the body. For example, 98% of the total body L-carnitine is confined to the skeletal and cardiac muscle at concentrations approximately 70 times higher than in the blood serum. Supplementation may be necessary in rare cases of primary carnitine deficiency, which may be caused by a defect in carnitine biosynthesis, a defect in carnitine active transport into tissue, or a defect in renal (kidney) conservation of carnitine. Known conditions of secondary deficiency of carnitine (insufficiency), in which L-carnitine is effective, include chronic stable angina and intermittent claudication characterized by distinct tissue hypoxia (low oxygen levels). Another condition that may benefit from carnitine supplementation is decreased sperm motility. Although use in preterm infants suggests carnitine supplementation may aid in maintaining or increasing plasma carnitine levels and possibly weight gain, carnitine is not routinely added to preterm total parenteral nutrition (TPN). However, soy-based infant formulas are fortified with carnitine to levels found in breast milk. In 1986, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved L-carnitine for use in primary carnitine deficiency. D-carnitine or DL-carnitine may cause secondary L-carnitine deficiency and should not be used.
  • Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is commonly found in a variety of foods such as fish, shellfish, meat, and dairy products. Vitamin B12 is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in a vitamin B complex formulation. It helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells and is also needed to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion. Once released, B12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream. The human body stores several years' worth of vitamin B12, so nutritional deficiency of this vitamin is extremely rare. Elderly are the most at risk. However, deficiency can result from being unable to use vitamin B12. Inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract can be caused by a disease known as pernicious anemia. Additionally, strict vegetarians or vegans who are not taking in proper amounts of B12 are also prone to a deficiency state. A day's supply of vitamin B12 can be obtained by eating 1 chicken breast plus 1 hard-boiled egg plus 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt, or 1 cup milk plus 1 cup raisin bran.
  • Extracts of fern species (family Polypodiaceae) have been used traditionally for numerous indications, most commonly in South America and Europe. The South American species Polypodium leucotomos L. is commonly known as "calaguala." Extracts of this species, called "anapsos," have been marketed and used as a treatment for multiple indications. Although laboratory and animal studies have reported anti-inflammatory, cytokine-suppressing, and leukotriene inhibitory properties, the small number of available human trials have not demonstrated efficacy for any specific indication.
  • The name "carotene" was first coined in the early 19th Century by the scientist Wachenroder after he crystallized this compound from carrot roots. Beta-carotene is a member of the carotenoids, which are highly pigmented (red, orange, yellow), fat-soluble compounds naturally present in many fruits, grains, oils, and vegetables (green plants, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, apricots, and green peppers). Alpha, beta, and gamma carotene are considered provitamins because they can be converted to active vitamin A. The carotenes possess antioxidant properties. Vitamin A serves several biological functions including involvement in the synthesis of certain glycoproteins. Vitamin A deficiency leads to abnormal bone development, disorders of the reproductive system, xerophthalmia (a drying condition of the cornea of the eye), and ultimately death. Commercially available beta-carotene is produced synthetically or from palm oil, algae, or fungi. Beta-carotene is converted to retinol, which is essential for vision and is subsequently converted to retinoic acid, which is used for processes involving growth and cell differentiation.
  • Originally found in Peru, the use of cat's claw ( Uncaria tomentosa ) has been said to date back to the Inca civilization, possibly as far back as 2,000 years. It has been used for birth control, as an anti-inflammatory, an immunostimulant, for cancer, and as an antiviral. The Peruvian Ashaninka priests considered cat's claw ( Uncaria tomentosa ) to have great powers and life-giving properties and therefore used it to ward off disease. Multiple plant species are marketed under the name cat's claw, the most common being Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis . Both are used to treat the same indications, although supposedly the former may be a more efficacious immunostimulant. Cat's claw ( Uncaria tomentosa ) may be contaminated with other Uncaria species, including Uncaria rhynchophylla (used in Chinese herbal preparations under the name Gou-Teng), which purportedly may lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, or act as a neuroinhibitor. Reports exist of a potentially toxic Texan grown plant, Acacia gregii , being substituted for cat's claw in commercial preparations. In Germany and Austria, cat's claw is a registered pharmaceutical and can only be dispensed with a prescription. Today, cat's claw is widely used and is one of the top herbal remedies sold in the United States despite a lack of high quality human evidence.
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