Brain Health Supplements are a Waste of Money

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) reports that supplements sold to improve your memory and to prevent dementia are a waste of your money. There is no good evidence that any over-the-counter or prescription supplement can delay the onset of dementia, or prevent, treat or reverse Alzheimer’s disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is prevented from regulating foods and all of these products are sold as food, so supplement makers have no real incentive to check their products for benefits or safety.

The GCBH report on supplements found little evidence that any of the products improved memory or brain function, although the authors say that DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, may help a little bit. Most people can obtain all of the vitamins and minerals sold in these supplements just by eating a healthful diet, but there are some exceptions:

• People over age 50 should be checked for B9 and B12 deficiencies.

• People taking certain drugs, such as blood thinners, heart medications, steroids or immune suppressants, may need to have their vitamin K and other nutrient levels checked.

• People with certain diseases and those preparing for surgery may have special nutritional needs.

Following their comprehensive review, the GCBH "determined it could not endorse any ingredient, product or supplement formulation designed for brain health . . . for most people, the best way to get your nutrients for brain health is from a healthy diet. 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."

Lifestyle habits recommended by the GCBH to decrease your chances of suffering dementia include:

• eat a healthful diet

• exercise regularly

• get adequate sleep

• challenge your mind regularly

• have lots of friends and social interactions 

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