Choosing Antioxidants to Prevent Memory Loss

The brain needs the same nutrients and vitamins as the rest of the body it just needs a lot more of them. There is evidence supporting the use of antioxidants like vitamin E, and to a lesser extent vitamins A and C. One or more of these essential vitamins is a must in any program to prevent memory loss. One note of caution these antioxidants are true long-term prevention agents and not quick-fix therapies. You will not see any immediate effects on your memory, and may not observe any change for several months. However, over a period of several years, there is a good chance that your memory will have declined less than that of your aging peers who have not chosen the antioxidant path. In any case, given that these are naturally occurring vitamins and related substances with hardly any side effects, and most are easy to obtain and not very expensive, what is the harm in taking them on a regular basis

Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that neutralizes bad oxygen and shields the membranes of brain cells from injury. Research suggests that it may diminish the risk of heart attack and stroke (not yet fully proven) and thereby decrease the likelihood of memory loss. The nutritional supplement dose of vitamin A is 10,000 to 50,000 units daily, or 10,000 to 25,000 units daily when taken together with 15 mg of beta-carotene. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is closely related to vitamin A. While vitamin A doses up to 100,000 units daily are generally safe, megadoses of vitamin A can lead to liver toxicity. Vitamin A has antioxidant potency that is comparable to vitamin E, and hopefully it will be studied further in people with memory loss. Until then, vitamin A will remain a second-level intervention in the Memory Program. Linus Pauling, who won two Nobel Prizes, began to be considered a quack after he advocated taking huge doses of vitamin C to fight the common cold and...


Antioxidants (vitamins C and E and beta-carotene) neutralize destructive molecules called free radicals, which our bodies produce in large amounts as by-products of normal functioning. Because free radicals are prime suspects in many of the diseases and impairments that come with age, including dementia, scientists have long suspected that antioxidants might offer protection against 84 memory loss. The newest research suggests that some antioxidants A large study suggested that vitamin E, but not the other antioxidants, might help slow the rate of age-related mental decline. This study, published in the Archives of Neurology in 2002, looked at 2,889 people ages sixty-five and older who, at the outset, had normal memory and cognitive function. Researchers collected detailed nutritional profiles and asked the people which vitamin and mineral supplements they took, and then tracked their cognitive function over an average follow-up interval of three years. Cognitive function was measured...

Other Antioxidants

Flavonoids, which are components of ginkgo biloba, are strong antioxidants. A subtype of flavonoids called proanthocynadin is found in grape seeds and pine bark. Grape seed extract and pine bark extract are marketed as antiaging products, but these substances have not been systematically studied. Green tea contains polyphenols that have antioxidant properties, and milk thistle extract contains the antioxidant silymarin. Barley and wheat juice contain large amounts of the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which is the main naturally occurring antioxidant enzyme in the human body. For all these antioxidants, there isn't sufficient evidence for me to recommend them as part of the Memory Program.

Therapeutic Guidelines for Antiinflammatory Medications

Among the NSAIDs, the antioxidant and anticoagulant properties of aspirin give it a slight edge over the other available compounds. If you have risk factors for stroke or heart attack for example, a strong family history or a high cholesterol blood level an aspirin a day is a good idea. It may also protect against memory loss, given its antistroke and anti-inflammatory properties. Other NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Motrin) or indomethacin (Indocin) also irritate the stomach lining, though to a lesser extent than aspirin (enteric-coated or buffered aspirin helps but does not always solve the problem). The other NSAIDs do not share aspirin's anticoagulant properties that help reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Hormones and Nutrition Staying Well Tuned

Unfortunately, many people who develop memory loss assume that it must be due to the aging process and do not consider the possibility that reversible causes like hormonal and nutritional abnormalities may be the culprits. The good news about hormonal and nutritional abnormalities is that if they are recognized early, they usually improve and can often be completely reversed with the right treatment. For hormonal abnormalities, early recognition is the key and physician consultation is required. To prevent nutritional causes of memory loss, in addition to eating a diet low in saturated fats and rich in fruits and vegetables, taking a daily multivitamin tablet that meets the FDA requirements for the major vitamins (B1 to B12, A, C, D, E) is the best strategy. For a promemory effect, higher dose supplements of the antioxidant vitamins A, C, or E are necessary.

First Level Medications Doses Actions Side Effects

Vitamin E's broad antioxidant and antiaging properties vaulted it to the top, particularly as a long-term preventive measure against future memory loss. Vitamin E should be taken as a single daily capsule of 400 to 800 IUs, but you can go up to 1,200 IUs (a maximum of 2,000 IUs if you're very adventurous). There is a very small risk of bleeding if you also take anticoagulants like Coumadin for the same reason, be cautious about combining vitamin E with aspirin or ginkgo biloba. Fortunately, in the very rare instances of bleeding caused by taking vitamin E, it is likely to begin gradually, so there will be time to reverse the problem by just stopping vitamin E.

Second Level Medications Doses Actions Side Effects

The main reason that vitamins A and C did not make it to the first level is that they have not been rigorously tested against memory loss. Nevertheless, their powerful antioxidant properties, which in animal Selegiline (Deprenyl or Eldepryl) has many actions, including antioxidant properties, that make it an effective antiaging compound. Although its effects in delaying functional deterioration were comparable to those of vitamin E in a recent Alzheimer's study, its use did not lead to improvement in performance on cognitive tests. Like vita

Biblography On Memory Loss

J., Witteman, J. C., den Breeijen, J. H., Breteler, M. M., Grobbee, D. E., Hofman, A. Dietary antioxidants and cognitive function in a Mendelsohn, A. B., Belle, S. H., Stoehr, G. P., Ganguli, M. Use of antioxidant supplements and its association with cognitive function in a rural elderly cohort the MoVIES project. Monongahela Valley Independent Elders Survey. American Journal of Epidemiology 148 38-44, 1998. Perrig, W. J., Perrig, P., Stahelin, H. B. The relation between antioxidants and memory performance in the old and very old. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 45 718-724, 1997. Socci, D.J., Crandall, B. M., Arendash, G. W. Chronic antioxidant treatment improves the cognitive performance of aged rats. Brain Research 693 88-94, 1995.

Vitamin E for Memory Loss

And ingesting a capsule of 800 IUs of vitamin E daily. At that time, the antioxidant and antiaging properties of vitamin E were well known, but there were no data to indicate that it could directly prevent memory loss. However, recent studies have produced positive results, and vitamin E is now a frontline strategy to prevent memory loss due to the aging process.

Selegilines Promemory Actions

Inhibition of the enzyme monoamine oxidase-B, which in turn leads to a reduction in the formation of toxic free radicals. Stimulation of superoxide dismutase, a powerful naturally occurring enzyme in the body that also destroys free radicals. This dual antioxidant action likely underlies selegiline's action in delaying functional decline in Alzheimer's disease. functional decline more than placebo. It was as if the antioxidant effect was maxed out by either compound, and hence adding them together did not improve matters any further.

Vitamin C The Essential Acid

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is essential for the nervous system, and is concentrated a hundred times more in the cerebrospinal fluid compared to other body fluids. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Despite Linus Pauling's exhortation to swallow huge amounts of vitamin C to treat the common cold and other illnesses, clinical research in people with memory loss has been sparse. But given that it has antioxidant properties comparable to vitamin E, a promemory effect is more than likely.

Trace Metals in Your Diet

Selenium is a trace element that has antioxidant properties and is claimed to be an antimemory-loss agent, but it has not been tested rigorously in people who have memory loss. There are other elements magnesium and zinc in particular that are necessary for normal brain function in small quantities, or traces. Until more solid evidence is forthcoming, and given the potential toxicity of these metallic elements and compounds, I don't recommend taking supplements of any trace metals. The amounts of these various substances present naturally in foods (and most multivitamin tablets) easily reach the FDA minimum daily requirement guidelines, so nutritional deficiency states are extremely rare.

How Stress Affects Memory in the Brain

Animal studies show that chronic stress can lead to increased formation of free radicals. As previously discussed, these free radicals, including bad oxygen, can inflict damage on vulnerable cells in the hippocampus and other brain regions. The outcome, not surprisingly, is memory loss.

The Essential Promemory Diet

At least two daily helpings each of fruits and vegetables citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits drinking juice instead of eating the actual fruit is okay) and berries are important sources of antioxidants, and green leafy vegetables have essential vitamins. A saturated fat-rich diet is the worst dietary culprit. It can lead to memory loss because high cholesterol levels and plaques begin to block the brain's arteries. Eventually, blood clots can lead to ministrokes and cognitive deficits, depending on which specific part of the brain has been damaged. If hippocampal or frontal cortex nerve cells, or the pathways connecting these regions, are destroyed, memory loss is the result. High levels of saturated fats also generate toxic free radicals, which can damage brain cells even further. Lowering saturated fats boosts the antioxidant potency of your diet, which is beneficial for memory and the aging process more broadly. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will prevent vitamin...

Avoid Saturated Fats

A saturated fat-rich diet can indirectly lead to memory loss. High cholesterol levels lead to fatty plaques that deposit themselves on the inner walls of arteries and slow down blood flow in the brain. If this slowing of flow occurs in a small artery (as is common), blood clots gradually form and cause a ministroke, and depending on which part of the brain is damaged, cognitive deficits can occur. If hippocampal or specific frontal lobe nerve cells are affected, memory loss will be the result. The best time to focus on dietary preventive techniques is before these lesions develop, because after a ministroke, the dead nerve cells cannot be regenerated. Another reason for cutting back on saturated fats is that they increase the number of free radicals, which are toxic to most brain cells and can produce memory loss.

Take Vitamins

I advise my patients to take vitamin C because the majority of the research suggests that antioxidants protect against memory loss due to aging and dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Antiox-idants combat free radicals, destructive molecules that occur naturally in the body and damage healthy tissue, including brain tissue. We know that free radicals accelerate the aging process, and therefore, it's reasonable to assume that they promote age-related memory loss. It's also likely that free radicals contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease, because oxidative damage has been found on autopsy in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. One study suggests that vitamins E and C are beneficial in the treatment of age-related memory loss. The 2002 study published in the Archives of Neurology suggested that vitamin E, but not the other antioxidants, may help slow the rate of age-related mental decline. Researchers surveyed 2,889 individuals (average age of seventy-four) with regard...


There are several ways that smoking might impair cognitive function, primarily related to its role as a major risk factor for cerebrovascular disease. Smoking damages the lungs, and good lung function is important for optimal memory function in aging. Smoking also constricts blood vessels, thereby depriving the brain of the oxygen necessary to nourish and support neurons. Nutritional factors may also play a role in the smoking-memory connection smokers tend to have lower intake of antioxidants and higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. There are many unknowns, but one bit of encouraging news is that smoking cessation seems to benefit the brain. In the previously cited 2004 study, former smokers exhibited less cognitive decline than current smokers.

Nutritional Problems

When we think of nutritional deficiencies, malnutrition and starvation come to mind. But in the modern world of excess food production and consumption, the opposite type of nutritional abnormality predisposes people to memory loss. A diet rich in saturated fats promotes the formation of toxic free radicals in the brain. Equally important, cholesterol and saturated fats contribute to the formation of plaques that line the walls of arteries and smaller blood vessels, increasing the risk of stroke and cognitive deficits.


Melatonin is an antioxidant, a superb scavenger of free radicals. Melatonin boosts its own antioxidant effect by promoting the activity of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that is also an antioxidant. Relatively high doses 3 to 20 mg daily are taken for its antioxidant, and possible promemory, effects. Even in this higher dose range, it has few side effects. At doses above 100 mg daily, melatonin can do a reverse flip and cause insomnia and depression. There have been many tall claims about the use of melatonin for a wide range of maladies, based primarily on results from animal studies. Clinical studies have focused on its sedative action, not its effects on memory. Its antioxidant activity suggests potential promemory effects. The lack of well-controlled studies using melatonin to treat mild memory loss or dementia, let alone to prevent memory loss, makes it difficult for me to recommend melatonin as a promemory agent. Also, I wonder if the anecdotal reports of melatonin's positive...

How Vitamin E Works

Vitamin E is a free-radical scavenger that destroys toxic free radicals like bad oxygen and hydrogen peroxide these antioxidant properties may benefit patients with Alzheimer's disease and protect against memory loss due to the aging process. The anticoagulant properties of vitamin E, which distinguish it from the other antioxidant vitamins A and C, may help protect against stroke.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for normal functioning of the retina, and its deficiency causes night blindness, which used to be fairly common until the latter half of the twentieth century. Beta-carotene is converted by the body's natural enzymes into vitamin A, and eating beta-carotene-rich foods like carrots prevents vitamin A deficiency. Both beta-carotene and vitamin A are antioxidants and free-radical scavengers, and many people take them regularly as antiaging medications. However, unlike vitamin E, vitamin A has not yet been tested against Alzheimer's disease or milder forms of memory loss.