Memory Enhancing Supplements Work?
Veronica Holland ABCNEWS.com
have a "senior moment" and wonder if an herbal memory enhancer
could help? Experts can't tell for sure if they will.
supplements such as Focus Factor, Cognita with huperzine and Senior
Moment part of a $140 million-a-year industry for such
supplements all claim to promote more efficient memory,
concentration and overall mental functioning.
scientific support for the claims emerged from an informal ABCNEWS
survey of more than a dozen top experts on aging, Alzheimer's
disease, drug safety and brain research.
are reasons to believe that some of the ingredients might work,
there is no convincing scientific evidence that they do work to
improve or forestall normal age related memory losses," said Dr.
Bruce Cohen, president and psychiatrist in chief at McLean Hospital
in Belmont, Mass. "There are studies under way of some of the
ingredients, but it is too early to predict whether any will be
safe and effective."
Small-Scale Evidence of Benefit
there is some evidence of benefit for a few of the ingredients,
such as choline, found in Focus Factor, which increases a key
nervous system neurotransmitter in rats, but has yet to be proven
in clinical trials to boost levels in humans.
Dr. Sid Gilman,
professor and chair of the department of neurology at the University
of Michigan, concurs. "There is no current evidence provided by
rigorous double-blind placebo controlled clinical trials that
any of these substances can improve memory in the aging brain,"
to ABCNEWS, the companies that make the supplements defended their
claims despite the lack of clinical trials. They cited previous
studies conducted on specific ingredients.
Dr.Tim Johnson noted that the companies admit they have not studied
their products in careful double-blind trials, but that they plan
to start such studies in the near future.
to me like putting the cart before the horse," said Johnson. "But
we don't have actual studies of these products per se to say that
they're going to do what they claim."
Firms Cite Benefits of Ingredients
to Senior Moment's Nutramax Labs representative Paul Deblinger,
the company evaluated literature on the supplements' two ingredients
phospholipids and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA.
"We saw the
merit in brain function by evaluating the published research,
and then chose the identical ingredients purchased from the identical
companies used in most of this research for inclusion in Senior
Moment," he explained, adding: "Therefore, it is scientifically
reasonable to bridge from the data on the individual ingredients
to the combination in Senior Moment."
said the company plans to follow the formal testing plan of both
human and veterinary studies used in testing their popular osteoarthritis
of Focus Factor says it also looked at previous studies in developing
their product. "The available scientific evidence provides ample
support for the statements made regarding the dietary supplement
Focus Factor," said the company's Rob Graham.
produced by Vital Basics, is currently being tested in a double-blind
placebo controlled clinical trial. The company expects the results
in the spring of 2002.
by General Nutrition Center, a national retailer of vitamin, mineral
and herbal supplements, said that the ingredients in Preventive
Nutrition Cognita contains well-known ingredients backed by research.
It also goes on to say is has "not made any claims to the consumer
about this product that are based on that research and will not
do so until the research is finalized and reviewed."
added that "GNC formulated Cognita is based on numerous published
studies that have been conducted on the individual ingredients.
It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
supplements are on the market, despite the disagreement between
some doctors and the supplement makers about their effectiveness.
That's because Congress made these products exempt from Food and
Drug Administration approval, said ABCNEWS' Johnson.
of products, over-the-counter supplements, food supplements, don't
have to be submitted to the FDA for evidence of either effectiveness
or safety before they're marketed," said Johnson. "So, really
it is a case of buyer beware."