May 18, 2019
Memory supplements come under scrutiny
Memory supplements claiming to ward off cognitive decline abound but there is so far little evidence they're effective.
The big picture: The business of memory supplements — from branded regimens to vitamins — pulled in $3.2 billion globally in 2016.
"People are willing to pay and do anything to preserve their brains ... but we don’t have the knowledge yet to give really effective interventions that change that trajectory as much as people think."— Joanna Hellmuth, neurologist, University of California, San Francisco
- 52% of people aged 65 and older say they see advertisements for memory supplements almost every day, according to a Survey Monkey poll for Axios.
- And 48% of people ages 50-64 years old in the National Poll on Healthy Aging reported taking a vitamin or supplement to help their memory.
- Yes, but: Just 5% talked to their doctor about dementia prevention. Sleep, exercise, learning new skills and socializing with friends are known to support brain health.
"The problem is that a lot of the interventions being marketed directly to consumers don’t do rigorous studies of the outcomes," says Hellmuth, who recently wrote about the "rise of pseudomedicine" for brain health.
- There are also questions about the safety of supplements, the Wall Street Journal reports.
- The Food and Drug Administration recently cited 17 companies for illegally selling products "that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and a number of other serious diseases and health conditions."
- Brain training games and wearable brain devices targeting memory are also under scrutiny.
- The future of forgetting
- How memory changes as we age