November 2019

Supplements for Brain Health?

More and more pharmacies have sections dedicated to “brain health.” What does “brain health” really mean? Are these supplements truly beneficial or just a waste of money?

“Brain health” can apply to a wide-range of conditions. It’s used as a catchall term to attract patients with varied needs. Patients interested in improving general cognitive function, cognitive impairment and dementia are likely drawn to well-known products like Prevagen and Neuriva. These products are marketed for improving memory and overall brain function.

Prevagen, touted as the “#1 Pharmacist Recommended Memory Support Brand,” contains apoaequorin, a protein isolated from a specific jellyfish species. While the marketing campaigns are convincing, most of the research on this ingredient is still preliminary, unpublished, and funded by the manufacturer. Until more research is available, don’t recommend this product.

Neuriva is also growing in popularity. It contains coffee fruit extract, also known as coffee cherry extract or green coffee, and phosphatidylserine. While there is evidence that taking phosphatidylserine might improve age-related cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease, evidence isn't good enough to recommend it for these conditions. And neither green coffee nor phosphatidylserine has been evaluated for improving general cognitive function.

Other popular products on the market like Qualia Mind contain long lists of ingredients. While research supports some ingredients, there isn’t enough data to know if they will offer any long-term benefits. Some products can also pose safety risks, interact with drugs, and many have been shown to contain unlisted ingredients like phenibut. Furthermore, they can be very expensive. Qualia Mind in particular costs over $100 per bottle.

If your patients are interested in taking a brain health supplement, tell them to save their money, remain active and stick to a healthy diet.

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The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2023 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.