Cold sore virus linked to memory problems

They're not just ugly and embarrassing. They're painful, too -- and cold sores might not be done with you yet.

The same herpes simplex virus responsible for those unsightly sores could also increase your risk of something far worse: memory loss, and possibly even dementia.

New research links cognitive decline to the herpes simplex 1 virus responsible for cold sores as well as herpes simplex 2, cytomegalovirus, chlamydia pneumonia, and Helicobacter pylori (the stomach bacteria responsible for many ulcers).

The more of these infections you have -- and many people have more than one, or even all five -- the higher your risk, with the highest "infectious burden" increasing the risk of low scores on cognitive tests by 25 percent.

If there's an upside, it's that the infectious burden didn't increase the risk of further decline over the eight-year study period -- only the risk of starting out with a lower score.

The study is part of a growing body of evidence linking chronic infection to memory loss and cognitive decline, especially infection with the herpes simplex virus. One recent study found that herpes simplex virus 1 damages nerve cells in ways that could lead to dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

The problem with the herpes simplex virus is that it never really goes way -- it just goes dormant.

But if you have it, you can keep it dormant and prevent unsightly breakouts and maybe even slash your risk of memory loss at the same time -- and you can start by increasing your levels of L-lysine, an amino acid that can stop the virus from reproducing.

You'll find it in legumes as well as fish, turkey, and chicken, but you'll need a supplement if you want to fight off herpes. I recommend 1,000 mg two to three times a day between meals during an outbreak, or half as much to prevent outbreaks.

For more on the herpes virus including prevention and the best ways to limit outbreaks if you are infected, see my book, "Prescription for Natural Cures."