Supplements to sharpen memory raise concerns

One in four Americans 50 and older take a supplement for brain health.  They are likely flushing dollars down the drain, says a new report by the AARP Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH).

The study, “The Real Deal on Brain Health Supplements,” says more than $3 billion was spent on memory supplements in 2016, a number that is expected to nearly double by 2023.

“Despite adults’ widespread use of brain health supplements, there appears to be little reason for it,” the study says.  “It’s a massive waste of money.”

The GCBH, an independent body of top scientists, doctors, scholars and policy experts brought together by AARP, reviewed the evidence of brain-health supplement effectiveness to determine the best advice to give those who take the pills. 

The council found that “scientific evidence does not support the use of any supplement to prevent, slow, reverse, or stop cognitive decline or dementia or other related neurological disease such as Alzheimer’s.”

Not only could no evidence be found that brain health supplements worked, the council found “significant concerns” about misleading claims from companies selling them, and about the safety and purity under which the supplements were manufactured.

“Unfortunately, supplement ingredients are not generally reviewed for purity and content by government agencies before they are allowed to be sold,” the report says.  “Some may contain ingredients that could even harm consumers.”

The best course for those hoping to avoid premature memory loss, according to the report: “The GCBH recommends consumers save their money and adopt healthy lifestyle habits instead.”


(As written in the AARP Bulletin, July/August 2019)