A Memory Supplement to Forget

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You may have seen TV and online ads for Prevagen, a dietary supplement that contains apoaequorin, a substance originally derived from a protein in jellyfish. According to the company making it, the supplement has been “clinically shown” to improve memory and help prevent age-related cognitive decline.

These claims have come under scrutiny by regulators. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission and New York State Attorney General sued Prevagen for making false and unsubstantiated claims. A judge subsequently dismissed the case—a decision criticized by many scientists, who assert that there is no solid evidence that Prevagen enhances recall and fights forgetfulness. An appeals court reversed the dismissal in February 2019 and the case is again proceeding. And in May, a court in California allowed a class action lawsuit against Prevagen to proceed to trial.

Here are just a few of the many problems with Prevagen: The research cited to supposedly prove its efficacy was published in an obscure journal and done by employees of the company—and it used analysis methods that are unreliable and represent cherry-picking data for something positive to report. The company boasts that the scientists who “discovered” apoaequorin won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which is true, but their research was on how jellyfish glow in the dark and had nothing to do with brain health. What’s more, as discussed above, the supposed mechanism of action for efficacy is scientifically implausible.

Bottom line: Prevagen is a poster child for unproven memory supplements and the marketers who use faulty science or pseudoscience to target people worried about their memory. Whether they contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, or a laundry list of “miracle” ingredients, memory supplements are not supported by solid clinical evidence. Save your money.

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