This is from MORE magazine, and James Ellison, I'm proud to report, is my brother!
Memory in a Bottle?
Which supplements could help you, and which ones you might as well forget about.
By Hilary Macht Felgran
Despite manufacturers' claims, experts generally agree that there isn't enough evidence to prove that any of the over-the-counter memory supplements on the market actually work. "People with deficiencies in essential nutrients may benefit from replacing them. But often these supplements contain many ingredients, and possibly ineffective amounts of any specific one," says James Ellison, MD, clinical director of geriatric psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Still, experts haven't ruled out the possibility that a number of the following popular supplements may turn out to offer some benefits. Just make sure to consult your doctor before giving any of them a try.
One recent placebo-controlled trial found that people who took the herb performed no better on tests of mental functioning than those who took a placebo. Because the study only lasted six weeks, one could argue it takes longer to achieve benefits; however, manufacturers often promise positive results in one month.
Several studies have found that people with low blood levels of this antioxidant were more likely than those with higher levels to score poorly on a variety of tests of cognition. Whether taking supplemental vitamin E can actually enhance your memory is still unclear.
A fatty substance found in nerve cell membranes, PS is theorized to help improve memory, learning, vocabulary skills, concentration, mood, and alertness. Some studies have shown beneficial effects, especially among adults over age 65 with severe memory loss, dementia, or early Alzheimer's.
It's one of the most heavily promoted brain formulas around, said to enhance memory, concentration, and focus. It contains a mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you'd find in ordinary multivitamins, plus a proprietary blend that includes dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), omega-3 oil, choline, and PS. The maker says the product can replace your multivitamin -- though at a much higher cost (about $70 for a one-month supply). According to Ellison, no properly designed study on humans supports Focus Factor or DMAE (its main active ingredient), for the improvement of intellectual functioning.
Bio Factor, Brain Pep, and Mindpro
Focus Factor's main competitors, these products are also touted for their supposed abilities to enhance a variety of brain functions. Almost all differentiate themselves from Focus Factor by containing herbs such as ginkgo biloba, St. John's Wort, gotu kola, and ginseng. They also tend to be a lot less expensive. But again, Ellison notes that these and other similar products may not contain enough of the active ingredient(s) to have any effect.
Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2004.