Brain Pills. Do They Work?

By: Adam Jameel


Image Credit: Flickr @ dierk schaefer

Would you want a miraculous drug that guarantees to strengthen your focus, enhance memory retention, and help your brain to remain healthy? In the status quo, numerous pharmaceuticals promise results precisely like that and advertise them specifically for students and seniors who want to strengthen their mind, whether for long, arduous finals, or trying to remember earlier events in the year. Yet, all their promises, as magical as they sound, are proven to be unsubstantiated. Although more research is necessary to help develop new brain supplements, the over the counter (OTC) pills in the status quo do not deliver the promises they quote.


Ingredients

Many of the supplements include a variety of sophisticated sounding words to sway the buyer into ingesting them. Most brain pills include Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and various Vitamin B vitamins in particular because they are known to have substantial health benefits when consumed commonly with a healthy, balanced diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, is helpful when ingested due to the numerous health benefits from decreased blood pressure to various others. But taking it as a supplement manifests no actual benefits according to Dr. Marshall, the associate medical director at the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at a Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Vitamin E is the only ingredient that has shown actual results in relation to our memory. It has shown results when taken by people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s Dementia. However, it does not prevent the disease or its debilitating symptoms. It actually increases the risk for hemorrhagic stroke. Vitamin B supplements in brain pills decrease the levels of homocysteine, associated with a risk for dementia. Although it is necessary, the amounts needed by a human are normally ingested through daily foods, and taking supplements is only necessary for people who are deficient in that sector. Research has not supported enhanced memory retention and focus in regards to supplemental intake.


Image Credit: Flickr @ Nacho

Regulation

The OTC brain “boosting” supplements sport outlandish and hopeful reaches, even though it has never been supported. These supplements do not have to undergo testing and safety sanctions since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not manage them. As posed by the FDA in a statement, “These products, which are often sold on websites and social media platforms, have not been reviewed by the FDA and are not proven safe and effective to treat the diseases and health conditions they claim to treat. These products may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.” This statement was issued to deter buyers from seeking the inconceivable drugs. Moreover, the FDA has filed letters and official complaints to companies requesting them to stop their false advertising and to remove their product or face heavy fines. But this is a very laborious process and the FDA, although they have begun efforts to quell the statements by dietary companies, have not modernized fast enough to deal with the new age of online purchases. So the next time you look at brain pills from companies like Prevagen, remember to research it carefully or consult your primary care physician.


Citations:

Publishing, Harvard Health. “Don't Buy into Brain Health Supplements.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/dont-buy-into-brain-health-supplements.

Crawford, Cindy, et al. “A Public Health Issue: Dietary Supplements Promoted for Brain Health and Cognitive Performance.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers, Apr. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7153641/.


Image Credit:

No changes were made to the following image, Brain | www.flickr.com/photos/dierkschaefer/5693354949/in/ph… | Flickr, License: Creative Commons Legal Code

No changes were made to the following image, Medicamentos | Medicine | Nacho | Flickr, License: Creative Commons Legal Code



What Did You Learn?

Questions:

1. What ingredients are commonly found in brain supplements and do they provide the effects suggested?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B are commonly listed as ingredients either standalone or as a combination in the supplements. However, the effects are entirely falsified in terms of helping cognition and retention since they are only necessary through other healthy sources, and having too high of an intake can result in hemorrhagic stroke leading to a futile attempt at better health. It is recommended to lead a healthy lifestyle instead by focusing on daily exercise and nutritious food choices.



2. Why are the drugs not being cited for false advertisement?

In order for a drug to fall under the category of false advertisement, it would require FDA oversight and testing. However, the FDA in a statement issued stated that they are not responsible for the drugs and their proposed effects; thus consumption of falsely advertised drugs can lead to negative results and result in bodily harm. It is the responsibility of the consumer to understand the consequences that untested drugs may have upon them and to understand that testing is non-existent or fabricated. It is much more healthy for your heart and brain to follow safe practices like eating healthy in order to strengthen cognition, which has been proven by numerous research conducted by the FDA and more organizations.



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