Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Various herbal mixtures, vitamins and other supplements are widely promoted as preparations that may support cognitive health or prevent or delay Alzheimer's. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened an expert panel that concluded current evidence doesn't support any benefit from taking extra vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid or beta carotene.

Omega-3 fatty acids

The NIH panel concluded there is somewhat stronger data — but not definitive evidence — that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may help prevent cognitive decline.

Vitamin E

Some physicians prescribe high doses of vitamin E to help treat Alzheimer's disease, based on a federally funded study showing that vitamin E delayed loss of ability to carry out daily activities and placement in residential care for a few months. Since that study, other research has associated taking vitamin E with an increased risk of death. No one should take vitamin E except under a doctor's supervision.


Ginkgo is a plant extract containing several substances believed to be of possible benefit in Alzheimer's. But a large study funded by the NIH found no effect in preventing or delaying Alzheimer's disease.

Supplements promoted for cognitive health can interact with medications you're taking for Alzheimer's disease or other health conditions. Work closely with your health care team to create a treatment plan that's right for you. Make sure you understand the risks and benefits of everything it includes.

Jan. 19, 2013