Rumors are, once again, hitting local, national, and international news about “fast cures” for Alzheimer’s disease. These articles, YouTube videos, and blogs are particularly noxious to me because they give people false hope, provide incorrect information, waste hard-earned money, can be dangerous, and bring more pain to people and loved ones suffering from these terrible diseases.
My goal is to help educate people about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Why? So you can be a better caregiver to your loved ones and take better care of yourself. Part of becoming educated about these diseases is to understand the science behind the research aimed at diagnoses, prevention, treatments, and cures.
That said, I feel it is important to repost “Alternative Treatments” from the Alzheimer’s Association. It is a long article, but I hope you can take the time to read it.
The best thing you can do for your loved one is to arrange a medical evaluation by a board certified physician in your community. Research has shown us that early diagnosis is critical for providing proper care.
The next time someone tries to sell you on a “fast cure” for Alzheimer’s disease, remember:
“Not everything you read on the Internet is true” ~ Abraham Lincoln
A growing number of herbal remedies, dietary supplements and “medical foods” are promoted as memory enhancers or treatments to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Claims about the safety and effectiveness of these products, however, are based largely on testimonials, tradition and a rather small body of scientific research. The rigorous scientific research required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of a prescription drug is not required by law for the marketing of dietary supplements or “medical foods.”
- Caprylic acid and coconut oil
- Coenzyme Q10
- Coral calcium
- Ginkgo biloba
- Huperzine A
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Concerns about alternative therapies
Although some of these remedies may be valid candidates for treatments, there are legitimate concerns about using these drugs as an alternative or in addition to physician-prescribed therapy:
- Effectiveness and safety are unknown. The rigorous scientific research required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of a prescription drug is not required by law for the marketing of dietary supplements. The maker of a dietary supplement is not required to provide the FDA with the evidence on which it bases its claims for safety and effectiveness.
- Purity is unknown. The FDA has no authority over supplement production. It is a manufacturer’s responsibility to develop and enforce its own guidelines for ensuring that its products are safe and contain the ingredients listed on the label in the specified amounts.
- Bad reactions are not routinely monitored. Manufacturers are not required to report to the FDA any problems that consumers experience after taking their products. The agency does provide voluntary reporting channels for manufacturers, health care professionals, and consumers, and will issue warnings about product when there is cause for concern.
- Dietary supplements can have serious interactions with prescribed medications. No one should take a supplement without first consulting a physician.
Caprylic acid (clinically tested as Ketasyn [AC-1202], marketed as a “medical food” called Axona®) and coconut oil
Caprylic acid is the active ingredient of Axona, which is marketed as a “medical food.” Caprylic acid is a medium-chain triglyceride (fat) produced by processing coconut oil or palm kernel oil. The body breaks down caprylic acid into substances called “ketone bodies.” The theory behind Axona is that the ketone bodies derived from caprylic acid may provide an alternative energy source for brain cells that have lost their ability to use glucose (sugar) as a result of Alzheimer’s. Glucose is the brain’s chief energy source. Imaging studies show reduced glucose use in brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s.
Axona’s development was preceded by development of the chemically similar Ketasyn (AC-1202). Ketasyn was tested in a Phase II clinical study enrolling 152 volunteers with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Most participants were also taking FDA-approved Alzheimer’s drugs. The manufacturer of Axona reports that study participants who took Ketasyn performed better on tests of memory and overall function than those who received a placebo (a look-alike, inactive treatment).
The chief goal of Phase II clinical studies is to provide information about the safety and best dose of an experimental treatment. Phase II trials are generally too small to confirm that a treatment works. To demonstrate effectiveness under the prescription drug approval framework, the FDA requires drug developers to follow Phase II studies with larger Phase III trials enrolling several hundred to thousands of volunteers.
The manufacturer of Ketasyn decided not to conduct Phase III studies to confirm its effectiveness. The company chose instead to use Ketasyn as the basis of Axona and promote Axona as a “medical food.” Medical foods do not require Phase III studies or any other clinical testing. The Alzheimer’s Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council has expressed concern that there is not enough evidence to assess the potential benefit of medical foods for Alzheimer’s disease. For more information, please see the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council statement about medical foods.
Some people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers have turned to coconut oil as a less expensive, over-the-counter source of caprylic acid. A few people have reported that coconut oil helped the person with Alzheimer’s, but there’s never been any clinical testing of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s, and there’s no scientific evidence that it helps.
There are alternative treatments for almost every medical condition, including Alzheimer’s disease. Get the Alzheimer’s Association opinion about the effectiveness of alternative treatments when you sign up for our weekly e-news.
Coenzyme Q10, or ubiquinone, is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the body and is needed for normal cell reactions. This compound has not been studied for its effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s.
A synthetic version of this compound, called idebenone, was tested for Alzheimer’s disease but did not show any benefit. Little is known about what dosage of coenzyme Q10 is considered safe, and there could be harmful effects if too much is taken.