Composition: Omega-3 fats in fish oil.
Claim:“Supports healthy brain function.”
Conclusion: All trials showed no evidence of improvements in memory, reasoning, or common brain functions. Five recent trials tested 1,600 healthy adults, some for 3 months, others for 4 years. There were no cognitive differences compared with those given a placebo. There were initial improvements for adults with memory problems, “But the effect is small, and needs to be confirmed by larger trials that help us understand who might benefit,” advises neuropharmacologist Krista Lanctot of the University of Toronto.
Compound: Phosphatidylserine (PS)
Composition: A fat-like composite made from soybeans.
Claim: “The key to lifelong memory.”
Conclusion: No studies have been done of PS with healthy people. Studies with people with memory problems showed no improvements.
Compound: B Vitamins
Composition: High doses of folic acid, vitamins B-6 and B-12.
Claim:“Helps to enhance memory in an aging population.”
Conclusion: In a typical recent study, 2,000 women over the age of 65 were tested for 6 years. When tested, the women taking vitamins showed no benefits. Epidemiologist Francine Grodstein of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston: “There have been many trials testing B vitamins for their effects on thinking and memory, and generally they haven’t shown any difference between those given the supplements and those given a placebo.” There was some evidence of minimal benefits for those with high homocysteine levels, but more studies are needed.
Composition: A compound used in Eastern Europe and Asia to help victims of stroke by slightly increasing blood flow in the brain.
Claim:“Supports cerebral metabolism.”
Conclusion: No evidence and zero studies done. The claim that increased blood flow in the brain helps memory, thinking, or any cognitive functions is totally unproven. In most cases an efficiently working brain actually requires less blood.
Compound: Huperzine A
Composition: A compound derived from moss and used to treat Alzheimer’s in China.
Claim:“For memory enhancement.”
Conclusion: A handful of studies in China reportedly have found that in can improve memory in seniors. These studies are not available to researchers and no studies have been done outside of China. Some brands analyzed in the US have found only 15% of the compound listed on the label (consumerlab.com).
Composition: Derived from leaves of the Gingko biloba tree.
Claim: “Aids in the enhancement of memory, cognitive as well as peripheral vascular circulatory functions.”
Conclusion: All studies showed zero evidence. In one large study, US researchers tested 2,587 healthy people and 482 subjects with mild cognitive problems. The study lasted 6 years and all the subjects were between the ages of 72 and 96. “After six years, ginkgo hadn’t improved either group’s memory, attention, use of language, or ability to organize thoughts or prioritize tasks.” There was also no evidence that ginkgo decreased cognitive decline or helped with dementia. All studies of people under the age of 60 yielded the same results.
Composition: Vitamins C, E and betacarotene.
Claim: “Especially beneficial for those concerned with maintaining optimal brain health and functioning.”
Conclusion: Numerous large studies have found zero difference in those taking the supplements and those taking a placebo.
David Schardt, “Brainmakers: Can popping pills preserve memory?” Nutrition Action Healthletter, September 2012
Photo: wikipedia.org CC