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What Supplements Help Improve Memory?

Question:
Do any supplements really help with brain function, like memory and cognition?

Answer:
There are a few supplements which may provide modest benefit with memory and cognition in certain people: These are fish oil, certain B vitamins, cocoa flavanols, curcumin (from turmeric), huperzine A, vinpocetine, and acetyl-L-carnitine. CoQ10 may help improve statin drug side-effects, including memory loss. However, be aware that some proprietary formulas which contain some of these ingredients, such as Procera AVH, may promise more of a benefit than clinical evidence suggests.

Certain forms of choline may be help improve short-term memory and attention in older adults, or improve cognition in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, while other forms of choline have not been found to have a benefit.

In girls deficient in iron, iron supplementation may improve learning and memory.

Although green tea has been touted for improving brain function, this effect is not well established. Other supplements touted for brain function, such as Gingko biloba and vitamin E have, by and large, not been found to be helpful.

Be aware that the FDA has specifically advised consumers to avoid supplements promoted to prevent or treat traumatic brain injuries.

You can read more about the potential memory and cognition benefits of these supplements by using the links above. Also see ConsumerLab.com's Encyclopedia article about Enhancing Memory and Mental Function.


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COMMENTS

gordon15533   September 14, 2017
I have found that Dr David Perlmutter's input on brain function is very worthwhile.


Alan11349   October 19, 2016
I especially want to respond to Robert8669's comment. His analyses are spot on, especially his concluding remark: "For now, the top of my list includes regulating blood sugar, exercising, and consuming a diverse array of antioxidants throughout each day, hedging my bets, if you will." Hedging our bets is what we MUST do for now. He also gets it right when he says, "If I had to guess today, I would say that the causes of Alzheimer's involve chronic inflammation and an unlucky combination of genetic dispositions." He goes on to say that beta-amyloid is a "firefighter" of sorts. Researchers are now raising the possibility that beta-amyliod may bet formed as the result of an immune response to cerebral inflammation, thus decreasing the tendency to demonize it. Perhaps a gross analogy is that beta-amyloid is the brain's scar tissue and, while scar tissue may not be our first choice, it ultimately serves a useful purpose. For now, who can say for sure?

Ty15522   September 13, 2017
This might explain why, in the so-called Nun Study, some of the participants who showed no dementia symptoms, had significant amyloid deposits post-mortem.

Robert8669   May 4, 2016
The problem with taking a strong position on issues related to nutrition and Alzheimer's (and Alzheimer's prevention) is that we really don't understand the causes of the disease.

While the beta-amyloid causal model is popular in certain medical circles and with the public, there is very little evidence to support it and much evidence that contradicts it. Beta-amyloid seems to be involved but probably in ways similar to the way cholesterol is involved in artery disease and firefighters are involved in fires. All are present at the event but they are probably an effect and not a cause. Why is this important? Treating effects is less certain to bring benefits than identifying and interfering with causes.

Until we know better, the list provided by CL, including Magnesium L-threonate, falls into the "it couldn't hurt and is otherwise beneficial" category, especially if you have reason to suspect genetic predisposition. It is also worth noting that the incidence of Alzheimer's is low in areas that consume a great deal of turmeric in their daily diets. Perhaps, but we should also consider that these diets are also associated with large amounts of ginger, garlic, and other potentially beneficial dietary products.

The issue gets even more complicated when considering what my neurosurgeon friends tell me about the low correlation between cognitive function and physical deterioration of the brain in Alzheimer's patients. Some people seem to lose cognitive function quickly with relatively little brain damage while other individuals remain cognitively competent despite widespread physical deterioration. What does this mean? We do not know.

If I had to guess today, I would say that the causes of Alzheimer's involve chronic inflammation and an unlucky combination of genetic dispositions. My guess is that beta-amyloid will turn out to be one of the firefighters.

For now, the top of my list includes regulating blood sugar, exercising, and consuming a diverse array of antioxidants throughout each day, hedging my bets, if you will.

Rhonda11181   August 18, 2016
Thank you for sharing and equating beta amyloid in the brain to cholesterol in the arteries. Probably both are firefighters rather than arsonists

Robert8598   April 3, 2016
Is there any info on prevagen?

ConsumerLab.com   April 4, 2016
Hi Robert - Yes, please see the CL Answer about Prevagen here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/prevagen_memory/

gordon15532   September 14, 2017
I sold this product when it was in the natural products arena. Those retailers who bought Prevagen had about 2/3rds returned for ineffectiveness.

Myrtoashe1707   May 10, 2015
In a paper by Dale Bredesen, he also mentions CDP Choline, bacopa monnieri, and resveratrol. He also introduces the idea of a multifaceted program to reverse cognitive decline. I think this is a fascinating possibility and that we will learn more about it in years to come. Please comment on those supplements as well, as I did find research that seems to support their use.
Here's the link:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4221920/

ConsumerLab.com   May 30, 2015
There is some evidence for choline and cognitive function, which you can read about in the Encyclopedia article: https://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=21658.

There is less evidence for bacopa (see the Encyclopedia article about Enhancing Memory and Mental Function: https://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=35549&docid=/tnp/condition/memory) and resveratrol (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews//Resveratrol_Red_Wine/), although more studies on resveratrol are underway.

Robert8677   May 5, 2016
This is true about choline. At the same time there is growing evidence that choline contributes to an intestinal environment that produces TMAO, which "promotes plaque accumulation in the arteries causing heart disease." I put the causal chain in quotes because I think it is less than clear that arterial plaque is the direct result of TMAO in the bloodstream. I think other, perhaps more foundational, factors or co-factors are required. Nonetheless, taking large amounts of choline for mental acuity may end up being a bad strategy.

ConsumerLab.com   May 6, 2016
Hi Robert - You can find more information about choline and TMAO here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/phosphatidylcholine_lecithin/

Kenneth679   April 20, 2015
What about fisetin? Search for Pamela Maher's work at the Salk Institute.


ConsumerLab.com   May 18, 2015
Hi Kenneth - We've now posted a CL Answer about fisetin here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers//fisetin_Cognisetin_Novusetin/

Ilima670   April 19, 2015
What about phosphatidylserine? I have heard that helps with brain function.

ConsumerLab.com   April 24, 2015
Hi Ilima - We've now added this to the Answer above with a link to the Encyclopedia article with more information.

M. J.13940   April 21, 2017
Is phosphatidylcholine the same at phosphatidylserine, which was the compound referenced in the question? The Encyclopedia article didn't mention PS that I could see.

ConsumerLab.com   April 27, 2017
Hi MJ - Phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine are two different compounds, although they both belong to a class of compounds called phospholipids. Please see this CL Answer: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/phosphatidylserine-phosphatidylcholine/. As noted in the Answer, you can find more information about phosphatidylcholine in the Choline Supplements Review (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/choline/), and more information about phosphatidylserine in the Encyclopedia article about this compound (https://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=21843).

micheline15667   October 15, 2017
I take phosphatidylserine at night primarily to lower cortisol, it seems to work.

ConsumerLab.com   October 16, 2017
Hi Micheline - You can read more about the evidence for phosphatidylserine for lowering cortisol levels in the Encyclopedia article about phosphatidylserine : https://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=21843

Ben179   September 24, 2014
Has Consumerlab looked at any of the other popular nootropics such as the racetam group of compounds (e.g. piracetam, oxiracetam, etc.)? They've started showing up in functional beverages like TruBrain.

ConsumerLab.com   September 24, 2014
Thank you Erik and Al - we've added vinpocetine to the list. You can read more about the evidence for it in Encyclopedia article linked above.

GerneyLee11732   February 17, 2017
What about choline? Lecithin? For the brain?

ConsumerLab.com   February 21, 2017
Hi Gerney - We've now added information about choline to the answer above. Please also see the "What It Does" section of the Choline Supplements Review (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/choline/#whatitdoes) for more about this.

Al176   September 24, 2014
You should mention vinpocetine which is widely used in Europe in treat low blood flow to the brain. In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial it was found to be effective for treating senile dementia. Available from any vitamin/supplement seller and not expensive.

Another over-the counter product that has been touted by naturopathic doctors is Cebria which supposedly contains a neuropeptide that enhances the glucose levels in the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier. However, it is a pricier patented product like Protandim (recently tested by ConsumerLab) and only available from the manufacturer. Online comments range from 5 stars "thumbs up" to 1 star "scam" and "ripoff". Perhaps ConsumerLab will someday test it.

Erik174   September 24, 2014
What about Vinpocetine? There are quite a few studies showing it has a significant impact on cognition and memory..


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This CL Answer initially posted on 5/2/2014. Last updated 8/8/2017.
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