Are you terrified of Alzheimers? I am.
Alzheimers was just a word to me until about 11 years ago. I even joked about it. “Early Alzheimers” I would joke if I forgot something. But 11 years ago…
- My father, who had been complaining about his memory for decades (while still working full-time), was suddenly so bad he couldn’t remember his kids.
- I started teaching full-time. I’d never had to present to this tough an audience. Present to business leaders? No problem. Present to 19-22 year-old college students — Whew!!
- I turned 60.
I found myself struggling to find a word I wanted. Once. Then another time. Then another. This combined with my father scared me badly, so I went in search of a solution. I found phosphatidylserine.
Research shows phosphatidylserine improves recall speed
There are a number of reputable studies indicating it can improve memory, especially for people showing declines (it won’t make a person with good memory into a super-memory star). Some research shows it works especially well in speed of recall. I researched it extensively when I started taking it. Today I just went to scholar.google.com and searched for phosphatidylserine and memory together. Here are a few of the scholarly articles you can find.
BTW, as you read the above, you’ll notice some studies try to combine phosphatidylserine with other substances. That’s because there’s no profit to be had for big Pharma in researching substances you can’t patent. Phosphatidylserine can’t be patented, so some researchers look at it in combinations they could patent.
I started taking one pill a day 10 years ago. And my struggling to find a word went back to no more often than was always normal for me. About 5 years later, I was again searching for words, and I moved to 2 pills a day. Today, at 70 years old, I’m taking 3 a day (which is the normal recommended dose) and my memory seems as good as when I was in my 40s and 50s. One person’s results prove nothing, but combined with the research— I’ll continue taking this supplement.
Warning about expensive supplements
If you’re considering it for yourself, you need to know it’s expensive. (I’m paying $37 for 60 soft gels containing 100 mg of it. Which means at 3 pills a day I’m paying about $675 a year.) This is a problem in two different ways
- Forking out the money for it, and
- It means that supplement manufacturers (who are not regulated) have a strong financial incentive to NOT include as much of the substance as they claim. (Or even any of it!) Any really expensive ingredient in a supplement is likely to cause less reputable manufacturers to cheat you. I’m using a formulation made for my Healthfood store. If I were using a national brand, I’d want to find one of those testing sites to make sure that brand is actually including phosphatetidylserine in their pills. (BTW, if you see if for a noticeably lower price than I’m paying — you should worry about whether the pills actually contain the supplement.)
In nature, phosphatidylserine comes in combination with other phosphatidyls — such as phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylinositol, and phosphatidylethanolamine. In fact, some supplement makers sell phosphatidylcholine by itself (it’s much cheaper) to improve brain function. What I buy is a phosphatidylserine complex (500 mg) — each pill includes 100 mg of the p.serine, 55 mg of the p.choline, 10 of the p.inositol and 20 mg of the p.ethanolamine, plus several complementary acids.
Research says there are no noticeable side effects
If you read the studies above, you’ll find the research says there are no noticeable side effects. I have never felt a side effect from this — at the lower dose and now at the “recommended” dosage.
What about Ginkgo instead?
Ginkgo biloba is another supplement that is supposed to improve brain function. It works by expanding blood vessels. By letting more blood pass through, you theoretically improve brain function. However, it gives me bad headaches, so I avoid it. Did you know that aspirin and ibuprofen constrict blood vessels — which removes headaches? Given that, it is easy to see why ginkgo might give you headaches.
What about regular exercise instead?
There are a number of studies (search for “exercise” and “memory improvement” in scholar.google.com) showing the benefits of regular exercise. There are studies showing it works best for spacial memory, while other studies show it works for consolidation of information into long term memory. This is obviously the cheapest method of improving your memory, plus it carries added benefits of improving your overall health.
A study of 191 Swedish women over 44 years (!) found that their level of fitness correlated to their likelihood of developing dementia. Here are how many of them developed dementia:
- 5% of High-fitness women
- 25% of Moderate-fitness women
- 32% of Low-fitness women
- 45% of Women so unfit they couldn’t finish the fitness test
After reading this study, I actually dusted off my treadmill and spent 30 minutes on it! (Here’s the link to the article about it in Forbes: Fitness vs. dementia article in Forbes)
What about you? Have you tried any of these? If so, what did you find? Or do you have some other recall aid you use?
Author Disclaimer — I’m not a medical doctor or a naturopath, so I can’t (and don’t!) recommend you take any supplement. I’m just giving you information I used to make my own personal choice. What you decide is up to you. I do promise you, however, that I have no reason of any kind (financial or personal) to promote any supplement.
Marlene Jensen is a 70-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, tons and tons of medications, and bath tubs you walk into.
6 thoughts on “Prevent (or delay) Alzheimers or dementia?”
Wow this was timely. I was trying to do the research to help my “slightly” failing memory and you’ve done the work for me. Very good article. THANKS!
Great article! At age 68, I haven’t experienced any memory loss, but then I work out at the gym every single day, so that makes sense based on the Swedish study you referenced. I’d rather prevent than treat. I understand there are dietary factors that can prevent dementia. Would love to see something about that here. (P.S, I love this blog. It’s about time this info is available in one place.)
There is interesting new research into the beneficial effects of three natural extracts, withaferin A, (from the herb ashwagandha), Ginsenoside (from ginseng), and Gamma linolenic acid (from borage seed or primrose oil) to combat the “seven Pillars of Aging” that cause physical aging to occur. Anyone have more info on this?
Great article and I appreciate your honest advice! I will take it!
Thought provoking, and I appreciate your humor, “Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers….”
Very much appreciate the fresh thoughts with hope and humor on a hot topic–will share with friends, who are often our recall aids. Happens all the time now, a pause in mid-sentence, a faint smile and the searching look, when the other person fills in that word we’ve used a thousand times. Tip-of the-tongue situations happen a lot more often, a lightening-fast flash of the word that didn’t make it to the next the neuron. Concentrate! Too late, it’s gone to a mental abyss! Amazingly, time can be an aid when the word might find its way back up to consciousness, usually long after it’s needed. Maybe that right-clicking on Synonyms is working against us, hindering mental exercise. Great blog, inspiring–thanks!