Do dietary supplements reduce your risk of dementia and improve brain health? The Global Council on Brain Health says they don't. In a new report, the organization recommends that most people not take dietary supplements for this purpose.
In addition, the Global Council on Brain Health, which is a collaborative organization associated with the AARP, concludes that, because supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, there's no way to know exactly what's in them. And few studies have been done to support supplement manufacturers' claims.
Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and member of the Global Council on Brain Health, says that, in general, most people do not need supplemental nutrients.
"Your diet is the best way to get the nutrients you need for your health," Dr. Petersen says. "If you have a deficiency state, such as low vitamin B12 levels, you may need supplementation. You should review all supplements you take, or are considering taking, with your health care provider."
Instead of taking dietary supplements for brain health, Dr. Petersen and the Global Council on Brain Health recommend that people focus on three things that are proven to help reduce the risk of dementia: regular exercise, diet and intellectual stimulation.
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"There are a few things that we can do that maybe will not, say, prevent Alzheimer's disease definitively but may delay its onset and slow its progression if it develops," says Dr. Petersen.
No. 1 is physical activity.
"If you exercise moderately — aerobic exercise — and by that, we mean maybe 150 minutes a week. So 50 minutes three times or 30 minutes five times. Vigorous walking, swimming, jogging, if you're up to it," says Dr. Petersen.
No. 2 is staying intellectually active. And No. 3 is diet. He says that most people recommend the Mediterranean diet. Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables, fish, healthy oils like olive oil, whole grains, and less meat and saturated fat.
"As we gain more information about our lifestyle over our general health, I think it's important to realize that the brain is also in that picture," says Dr. Petersen.