In part three of my quick look at Alzheimer’s disease, I wrap up with two more supplements that have shown great potential for patients. They are “Ginkgo biloba” and acetyl-L-carnitine.
Extracts of gingko, a tree common in China, mimic the antioxidant effect of the Alzheimer’s disease drug “Selegiline.” In 2002, three good-quality studies found ginkgo to have very beneficial results. In a study that lasted 24 weeks and involved 205 Alzheimer’s patients, 240 milligrams (mg) of ginkgo a day improved cognitive function. In a six-week study that included 262 patients, 180 mg a day led to positive results across the board. And in a study that lasted anywhere from three weeks to 52 weeks, and included nearly 3,300 patients, researchers found that 80 to 200 mg of ginkgo a day improved memory.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is a micronutrient that has mixed results in Alzheimer’s. In a high-quality study involving 334 Alzheimer’s patients treated with one gram three times a day, there were positive results (e.g. slowed progression of memory loss) in people under, but not older than, 61. But, a big study looking at nearly 1,100 patients found no evidence of any benefit from acetyl-L-carnitine treatment. Then, another big study involving 1,200 patients did find a clear advantage of acetyl-L-carnitine over placebo in all cognitive tests. Finally, an interesting study with 23 Alzheimer’s patients who didn’t respond to conventional drugs found that when acetyl-L-carnitine was added to the equation (2.0 g/day for three months), they had a significant improvement in memory.
Bottom line: Huperzine A (the subject of my previous article), ginkgo extract, and acetyl-L-carnitine are three natural medicines that are promising for Alzheimer’s. For most, important unanswered questions remain about safety and long-term effectiveness. Many caregivers are desperate to find an effective treatment for their patients, and these might help. Consult a doctor first.
Read the first part of my article series: Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease.