Whether or not Prevagen is the best medicine to help your memory is debatable. Prevagen is a top-selling but also controversial supplement. The supplement makers have faced lawsuits, with some saying they misrepresent their product.
So what’s the reality?
How Prevagen Works
Prevagen is a supplement that’s made with an active ingredient called apoaequorin. As a brain health supplement, theoretically, it’s intended to help boost not only memory but overall mental function.
The idea is that the apoaequorin may help with mild memory loss associated with the general effects of aging. The ingredient is synthetic, but it was originally derived from glowing jellyfish. Quincy Bioscience patents the synthetic version used in this supplement.
While the science can be somewhat complex, the general idea is that the apoaequorin protein is exposed to calcium, it binds to it. Dysregulated or high calcium levels in the brain are associated with cognitive decline and memory problems.
While it sounds like this could be helpful for memory and cognitive issues, there’s a problem. Researchers aren’t sure that apoaequorin can reach the brain. It isn’t likely to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier very easily or at least in amounts that are enough to have significant benefits.
When you consume a protein by mouth, which is what apoaequorin is, your stomach and pancreas work together to break it down. That helps you digest it. If you’re eating protein for nutrition, that’s a good thing. If you’re taking a protein-based medication, it’s a problem. Your GI system will likely break down the Prevagen before it can work in your brain.
People often wonder if there’s any scientific evidence to support Prevagen’s makers’ claims.
The evidence to support the use of Prevagen as a medicine to help memory is limited.
In 2016, Quincy Bioscience published a small study that compared 10 mg of apoaequorin per day to a placebo for 90 days.
There are problematic issues with the study, though. First, there were just over 200 participants. The study is smaller than what’s often used when trying to show a treatment might be effective for the general population.
Another problem is that since the study only ran for 90 days, we don’t know the long-term effectiveness or safety of the product.
The researchers also used potentially problematic tests to look at memory in participants. According to reports on the study, none of the cognitive assessments are standard in health care for diagnosing a memory loss condition. It’s hard to interpret the results of a non-standard test.
FDA-Approved Treatments for Memory Loss
If someone is looking for medications for memory loss, there are FDA prescription options on the market that they can speak to their doctor about instead of Prevagen.
Five of the medicines with current FDA approval are donepezil, memantine, namzaric, rivastigmine, and galantamine.
These medicines aren’t intended to cure Alzheimer’s but can slow its progression. Also, these medicines aren’t approved to help memory loss in people who don’t have Alzheimer’s disease.
You can make a wide range of healthy lifestyle changes to improve your memory or reduce memory loss. For example, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help your brain health.
Certain supplements may be more effective than Prevagen to help mild memory issues.
- Gingko Biloba is one of the most promising supplements for memory improvement. Several reviews and meta-analyses show that gingko biloba is helpful for dementia and may improve blood flow in the small vessels to help brain health. While it doesn’t appear to prevent dementia, it may help improve or stabilize symptoms in people who already have it.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are potentially a good way to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and similar neurodegenerative conditions.
- Huperzine A is also known as Chinese club moss, and it works in some of the same ways as drugs for Alzheimer’s.
- Panax ginseng is often used along with ginkgo Biloba, and it can help with fatigue and quality of life and may have potential benefits for memory.
- Vitamin E doesn’t lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but it may slow the progression.
Overall, Prevagen does appear to work at least anecdotally for some people, and there’s a reason it’s such a huge seller, but it’s not necessarily the best medicine or supplement for memory loss. There are approved medications for Alzheimer’s and supplements with more evidence to back up their effectiveness than what’s available currently for Prevagen.