'Save your money': no evidence brain health supplements work, say experts

‘Save your money’: no evidence(ˈevədəns) brain(brān) health supplements(ˈsəpləmənt) work, say experts(ˈekˌspərt)

Worldwide panel(ˈpanl) says it cannot recommend(ˌrekəˈmend) healthy(ˈhelTHē) people take ‘memory supplements’

By Nicola Davis(ˈdāvis)

Dietary(ˈdīəˌterē) supplements such as vitamins(ˈvītəmən) do nothing to boost(bo͞ost) brain health and are simply a waste(wāst) of money for healthy people, experts have said(sed).

According to figures(ˈfigyər) from the US, sales of so-called “memory supplements” doubled between 2006 and 2015, reaching a value of $643m, while more than a quarter(ˈkwôrdər) of adults over the age of 50 in the US regularly(ˈreɡyələrlē) take supplements in an attempt to keep their brain in good health.

But while bottles(ˈbädl), packets and jars(jär) line the shelves(SHelvz) of health food shops – with claims(klām) that they help maintain(mānˈtān) brain function or mental(ˈmentl) performance – a worldwide panel of experts says at present(priˈzent,ˈprezənt) there is little evidence that these supplements help healthy older people, and that they could even pose(pōz) a risk to health.

“There is no convincing(kənˈvinsiNG) evidence to recommend dietary supplements for brain health in healthy older adults,” they write. “Supplements have not been demonstrated(ˈdemənˌstrāt) to delay(dəˈlā) the onset(ˈänˌset,ˈôn-) of dementia(dəˈmen(t)SH(ē)ə), nor can they prevent(prəˈvent), treat(trēt) or reverse(rəˈvərs) Alzheimer’s(alcaimər) disease(dəˈzēz) or other neurological(ˌn(y)o͝orəˈläjəkəl) diseases that cause dementia.”

However, the team note a lack of certain(ˈsərtn) nutrients(ˈn(y)o͞otrēənt), such as vitamins B9 and B12, appear to be linked to problems with cognitive(ˈkäɡnədiv) function or brain health, and that supplements might prove useful in people with deficiencies(dəˈfiSHənsē). About 20% of people over the age of 60 in the UK are thought to be lacking in vitamin B12.

But the experts stress it is important to consult(kənˈsəlt) a doctor before starting any supplements, and that it is better to get nutrients from a healthy diet(ˈdīət).