Over-the-counter pills that claim to improve memory and brain function are usually USELESS, an expert warns
- Over-the-counter brain supplements are generally useless, experts warn, and could actually discourage people from seeking medical treatment
- AARP reports that Americans age 50 and older spend more than $93 million on the drug each year
- The supplements are not FDA regulated, which means that the claims they make are not clinically proven
- They’re often safe and don’t directly harm people who take them — but experts fear some may be relying on supplements rather than seeking medical help
Over-the-counter supplements that claim to improve a person’s memory and cognitive functions can be useless, experts warn, and while the pills themselves do little direct harm, they can lead people to seek one delay medical treatment for potential problems.
Experts warn that while the supplements often contain a mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are great for brain health, the pills themselves provide no benefit.
However, the contents of the pills are safe. Many of the ingredients are found in common foods that a person would eat anyway. A person who feels they are suffering from symptoms of a cognitive problem may turn to the pills instead of a doctor and not seek treatment soon enough for an intervention to slow the problems down.
Although these supplements are sold in many stores and popular online retailers like Amazon, they are rarely approved by the Food and Drug Administration and have an extremely low standard compared to prescription drugs.
Experts warn that supplements that claim to boost cognitive function are generally useless and could prevent a person from seeking genuine medical care for early-stage cognitive problems (file photo).
“People have been using supplements to improve memory for hundreds of years, and some are so common you’ll find them for sale in a grocery store,” said Dr. Douglas Scharre, a neurologist in Ohio State, told UPI.
“The truth is that these products offer some benefit to some people, but not to most.”
These supplements can be both a waste of time and money.
AARP warned in 2019 that 25 percent of adults age 50 and older were taking the supplements.
As a result, the age cohort spends around $93 million each month — over $1 billion a year — on the pills, which rarely, if ever, do any good.
“Brain health supplements appear to be a huge waste of money for the 25 percent of adults over 50 who take them,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, senior vice president for policy at AARP.
She added, “These people who take these pills spend anywhere from $20 to $60 a month and flush dollars down the toilet that could be better spent on things that actually improve their brain health.”
These pills aren’t heavily regulated either, meaning there’s no clinical support for the claims of effectiveness they make.
“The market is so big that they don’t have rigorous documentation of the effectiveness of their products,” said Ronald Peterson, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, in an AARP publication.
The organization notes that the dietary supplement industry thrives on a lack of regulation and the current major players have no reason to change their standard of operation unless forced to do so.
Over-the-counter diet supplements do not contain any controlled substances — if they did, the FDA would take them off the shelves — and are generally safe.
Doctors are still afraid some will turn to these virtually useless pills instead of seeking medical help to treat the early signs of cognitive problems.
“Memory loss has always been a problem for people as they age,” said Dr. Anne Hume, professor of pharmaceutical practice at the University of Rhode Island, told UPI.
“Many people take these supplements because they want to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.”