No interventions proven to prevent late-life dementia

December 18, 2017, American College of Physicians
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

There is no proven intervention for preventing late-life dementia. Researchers from the Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) reviewed published research to determine if physical activity, prescription medications, over-the-counter vitamins and supplements, or cognitive training interventions could help to prevent dementia in patients who did not have it at the time of the studies. The vast majority of research showed that none of the interventions worked. Findings from four systematic evidence reviews are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The prevalence of cognitive impairment and dementia is expected to increase dramatically as the population ages. Optimal treatment to prevent or delay , mild cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer-type dementia is not known. EPC researchers were funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to assess the literature and determine if any interventions had enough quality evidence to warrant a recommendation.

Physical Activity

Researchers reviewed data from 16 trials comparing a physical activity intervention with an inactive control. They found insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of aerobic training, resistance training, or tai chi for improving cognition. The researchers did find low-strength evidence that combining different types of interventions at the same time, such as , diet, and cognitive training, improved cognitive test performance.

Prescription Medications

Researchers reviewed data from 51 trials comparing the effect of prescription medication with placebo, usual care, or active control on . The evidence did not support use of any of the studied pharmacologic treatments (dementia medications, antihypertensives, diabetes medications, NSAIDs or aspirin, hormones, and lipid-lowering agents) for cognitive protection in persons with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment.

Cognitive Training

A review of 11 trials of adults with either normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment at the time of enrollment found that insufficient evidence that cognitive training exercises could prevent dementia. Group was found to improve performance only in the cognitive domain trained. For example, memory training improved memory, but did not improve any other aspects of cognition.

Over-the-counter Vitamins and Supplements

The study authors reviewed 38 trials comparing over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids, soy, ginkgo biloba, B vitamins, vitamin D plus calcium, vitamin C or beta carotene, multi-ingredient supplements, with placebo or other OTC interventions for preventing or delaying cognitive decline, , or clinical Alzheimer-type dementia. They found insufficient evidence to suggest that any of the supplements worked to reduce the risk for cognitive decline.

According to the researchers, the reasons these interventions fail is not entirely clear. It is possible that they simply do not work to improve cognition, or it could also be that the studies started the interventions too late in life, didn't use them long enough, or because of shortcomings in many of the studies.

Researchers note that while there was no about whether an to practice a healthy lifestyle earlier in life protects against cognitive decline or dementia in later life, it is unlikely to worsen cognition and may have other, noncognitive benefits.

Explore further: No evidence drugs, vitamins, supplements help prevent cognitive decline in healthy older adults

More information: Annals of Internal Medicine (2017).

Annals of Internal Medicine (2017).

Annals of Internal Medicine (2017).

Annals of Internal Medicine (2017).


Related Stories

No evidence drugs, vitamins, supplements help prevent cognitive decline in healthy older adults

April 15, 2013
A review of published research has found no evidence that drugs, herbal products or vitamin supplements help prevent cognitive decline in healthy older adults.

Population of Americans with Alzheimer's will more than double by 2060, study shows

December 7, 2017
About 15 million Americans will have either Alzheimer's dementia or mild cognitive impairment by 2060, up from approximately 6.08 million this year, according to a new study by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public ...

New report examines evidence on interventions to prevent cognitive decline, dementia

June 23, 2017
Cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity all show modest but inconclusive evidence that they can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia, but there is ...

Benefits of cognitive training in dementia patients unclear

February 22, 2017
Positive effects of cognitive training in healthy elderly people have been reported, but data regarding its effects in patients with dementia is unclear.

Preventing cognitive decline in healthy seniors

April 15, 2013
Cognitive training exercises—or mental exercise—may help prevent cognitive decline in healthy older adults, while evidence for the benefits of pharmacologic substances and exercise is weak, outlines a review published ...

Low-dose aspirin no aid against cognitive decline

May 9, 2017
(HealthDay)—Low-dose aspirin does not protect against cognitive decline, according to a review published April 20 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Recommended for you

Cell therapy could improve brain function for Alzheimer's disease

March 15, 2018
Like a great orchestra, your brain relies on the perfect coordination of many elements to function properly. And if one of those elements is out of sync, it affects the entire ensemble. In Alzheimer's disease, for instance, ...

Physically fit women nearly 90 percent less likely to develop dementia

March 14, 2018
Women with high physical fitness at middle age were nearly 90 percent less likely to develop dementia decades later, compared to women who were moderately fit, according to a study published the March 14, 2018, online issue ...

Poor sleep may heighten Alzheimer's risk

March 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Older adults who are sleepy during the day might have harmful plaque building in their brain that is a sign of impending Alzheimer's disease, researchers report.

Dementia patients with distorted memories may actually retain key information – researchers say

March 7, 2018
Some memories containing inaccurate information can be beneficial to dementia sufferers because it enables them to retain key information researchers say.

The brain's immune system may be key to new Alzheimer's treatments

March 7, 2018
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Research Institute (SBP) researchers have published two new studies in Neuron that describe how TREM2, a receptor found on immune cells in the brain, interacts with toxic amyloid beta proteins ...

Study reveals novel biomarkers for future dementia risk

March 6, 2018
Sudha Seshadri, M.D., founding director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer's & Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, is co-leader and senior author on research announced March 6 that identifies novel ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.