Do Brain Supplements Really Work? – Cleveland Clinic
Better memory. Focus improved. Less risk of developing dementia. Brain health is big business. A 2019 report from the Global Counsel on Brain Health predicted that by 2023, people will spend more than $ 5 billion a year globally on supplements for brain health.
The Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse any products or services other than those of Cleveland Clinic. Politics
But can taking a pill really boost your intelligence? “Research in this area is in its infancy,” says dietitian Maxine Smith, RDN, LD. “We don’t yet have the data we need to make a recommendation on the effectiveness of brain supplements. And there are security concerns. “
Here’s what you need to know before buying supplements for your brain.
Brain Health Supplements: Do They Work?
There are many ingredients in brain health supplements that are linked in one way or another to the health of the brain. But most of the evidence comes from diet and diet research, not supplements, Smith says.
“There are over 25,000 bioactive substances in food, which work together to protect your body, including your brain and the processes that affect your brain,” says Smith. “Taking just one or two of these vitamins or chemicals won’t be a cure-all.”
Still, you might be wondering about the connection between common brain boosting ingredients and brain health. Here’s what the science says.
omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3s are a type of healthy fats that are important for many bodily functions. They are found in oily fish, shellfish, and plant sources like walnuts and flax seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health, and scientists are studying whether they may benefit the brain as well.
“But there isn’t enough research to say that a supplement has the same benefits as omega-3 fatty acids from food,” says Smith. It’s probably a better bet to just order the salmon.
Researchers have explored the link between cognition and vitamins B6, B9 and B12. But so far, there is no evidence that B vitamins improve cognition or prevent dementia. Most people get a lot of the B vitamins from their diet, Smith says.
However, some older people are deficient in B12. In this case, a supplement could be beneficial for overall health, including brain health. “If you take a multivitamin a day, it probably provides enough B-12, but it’s always best to discuss supplements with your doctor before taking,” she says.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. In people who already have dementia, a daily vitamin E supplement may slow the rate of decline.
And there is some evidence that people who eat a diet rich in vitamin E may be less likely to develop dementia. But it’s not clear if the supplements would have the same benefit.
Additionally, too much vitamin E can be harmful. “High doses of vitamin E supplements are associated with an increased risk of death,” says Smith. Instead of supplements, she recommends a diet high in vitamin E, with foods like nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, and vegetable oils like sunflower and corn oil.
Vitamins A, C, and D are often included in products that claim to benefit the brain. But while these vitamins are important for overall health, there is no evidence that they boost memory, cognition, or brain health. That being said, vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin” and many of us don’t get enough of it. Vitamin D is a good thing to discuss with your doctor.
Ginkgo is an herb that has long been popular as a cognitive health supplement. But a large study of more than 3,000 participants found that ginkgo was no better than a placebo at preventing dementia in the elderly. And in people who already have dementia, ginkgo has done nothing to slow the rate of cognitive decline.
In addition, ginkgo could interact negatively with other drugs. In other words, you should probably skip this herb.
Should you take a brain supplement?
What about all those over the counter brain supplements that claim to be good for your brain? “Take these affirmations with a grain of salt,” says Smith.
Supplements are loosely regulated in the United States, so there is no guarantee that they will do what they claim to do. Studies by manufacturers aren’t always well designed, Smith says. And some supplements may contain ingredients in doses that could be harmful. “They could even be contaminated with contaminants like heavy metals which can be dangerous,” she adds.
Better ways to improve brain health
Someday, researchers might identify a mix of ingredients that works wonders for your brainpower. But in the meantime, there are more effective ways to keep your brain healthy:
- Diet. Nutrition is one of the best ways to protect your brain, says Smith. She recommends a diet rich in products with healthy oils from olive oil, nuts and seeds and oily cold water fish. “Aim for a colorful diet, with dark leafy green vegetables, as well as orange and red fruits and vegetables,” she says. “Colorful foods contain antioxidants that can protect the brain.”
- Limit alcohol. “Too much alcohol can increase the risk of cognitive decline,” she says.
- Physical activity. “Regular exercise is strongly associated with the prevention of cognitive problems,” says Smith. “Try to have at least 150 minutes of activity per week.”
- To sleep. Lack of sleep is linked to cognitive decline, so prioritize your sleep.
- Socialize. Social interaction is closely related to the maintenance of cognitive function as we age. “Try to spend time with others and limit isolation,” Smith advises. “Whenever you can, share meals with your friends and family. ”
- Treat health problems. Chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk for cognitive decline and dementia. To reduce your risk, work with your doctor to manage any illnesses.
“As we live longer and our population ages, more and more people become concerned about protecting cognition,” says Smith. There is no magic pill, but healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way to benefit your brain.