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Ask the Expert

Thanks for a wonderful newsletter. I am interested in exploring natural supplements for cognitive decline. I have heard that lecithin could be helpful. Can you add to this?

Marjorie Piazza, PhD
Eldercare Solutions, Inc

Nyack, New York

A. A 2003 Cochrane analysis found that “the evidence from randomized trials does not support the use of lecithin in the treatment of adults with dementia.” They do note that one trial in subjects with memory impairment showed a favorable effect. More recently, a Japanese study looking at soybean lecithin-derived phosphatidylserine showed more promising results in terms of an increase in delayed verbal recall, one of the earliest findings in dementia. The researchers found equivalent results after six months of treatment at both the low (100 mg/day) and high dose (300 mg/day).

The effects were even more evident three months after treatment, suggesting long-term changes in the brain. Animal research points to improvements in cholinergic transmission, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect of phosphatidylserine, and structural neuronal changes. Based on the nature of these changes, continued use would likely be necessary. The supplement was found to be safe with no side effects.

— Melina Jampolis, MD, is an internist and board certified physician nutrition specialist who practices in Los Angeles and San Francisco exclusively in nutrition for weight loss and disease prevention and treatment. She is the author of The Busy Person’s Guide to Permanent Weight Loss.