NPA: WHO Guidelines on Dementia and Supplements “Misguided”

Brain Disorders

Geneva, Switzerland—The World Health Organization (WHO) released guidelines for Risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia, which the Natural Products Association (NPA) is calling incomplete.

The document notes that dementia is a rapidly growing global public health problem, but that it is neither a natural consequence of aging nor inevitable.

Recommendations from WHO include:

  • Physical activity, particularly for adults with normal cognition in order to reduce risk. Adults with mild cognitive impairment may also benefit.
  • A Mediterranean-like diet may help those with normal cognition and mild cognitive impairment. At the very least, a “healthy, balanced” diet should be recommended to all adults.
  • Vitamins B and E, polyunsaturated fatty acids and multi-complex supplementation should NOT be recommended, on the basis of evidence of “moderate” quality.
  • Cessation of tobacco and alcohol use. The evidence for these recommendations, the document notes, is not strong, but there are plenty of documented health benefits.
  • Other recommendations, including management of hypertension and diabetes, were made based on “very low” or “low” quality evidence.

NPA released a statement rejecting the guidelines on the basis that recommendations from WHO regarding supplements are misguided. Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., president and CEO of NPA, said: “Vitamin and mineral supplements were never intended to treat diseases but suggesting they do not play a role in supporting cognitive health, especially in older individuals, is misguided. Recent studies have shown that not getting enough vitamin D can double the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, even though the WHO report cites vitamin B12 deficiency as a risk factor for dementia, it does not recommend its use to supplement the deficiency.”