An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but a daily dose of testosterone could help women ward off dementia, according to a new Australian study.

Today, more than 35 million people are affected by dementia worldwide, and these numbers are expected to triple by 2050. Although researchers aren’t clear why, women are two times more likely than men to get Alzheimer’s.

Sparked by this disparity in dementia in men versus women, researchers at Monash University’s Women’s Health Research Program in Australia had 96 healthy post-menopausal women rub either a dummy cream or a testosterone gel on their skin every day over six months.

Results showed that women who used the testosterone gel performed better in brain function tests than women with the placebo cream. Although testosterone is considered a male hormone, women produce a small amount in their ovaries that decreases once menopause hits.

Researchers tested the women through verbal learning, having them listen to dozens of words and asking the women to recall as many as possible.

The typical advice for avoiding dementia symptoms and boosting brain health includes a healthy diet, “brain training” activities like crosswords and puzzles, and regular exercise. The possibility of ramping up brain training with a simple, inexpensive cream has the medical community abuzz.

This small study indicates a possible future avenue for research into memory loss in women.

Jess Smith, U.K. Alzheimer’s Society

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