As we age, we all face the uncertainty of memory loss. Furthermore, this is a condition that not only affects the elderly; it can potentially affect everyone at any age. Many people try to combat memory loss, or simply sharpen their mental acuity with vitamin supplements; and, there is no shortage of widely hyped, natural solutions to improve brain function. But, the question remains: do they actually work? The problem with vitamin supplements is that they are very lightly regulated, if at all, by most government organizations. You may have even seen the disclaimer that “This product and its claims have not been evaluated by the FDA.” While there is some research to validate these claims, there is still more research to be done.
Before spending money on supplements, what about prescriptions? According to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, many physicians are suspicious of these types of medications because they are incredibly expensive and have limited effectiveness in the short term. Aside from prescriptions, vitamin companies have heavily marketed natural solutions including Ginkgo Biloba. Ginkgo Biloba is perhaps the most popular over the counter supplement and has shown great promise in improving blood flow in the smaller blood vessels found in brain activity.
Other than Ginkgo, here are a few other memory supplements that may hold potential, but require additional study:
- Omega-3 fatty acid. Some studies have suggested that a diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acid found in foods such as cold-water fish, some plants, and nut oils. However, further studies concerning omega-3s to placebo effects are needed to solidify the claim.
- Vitamin E. Recent studies have shown that this vitamin can indeed help with memory function. However, they have uncovered concerns about increased risks of deaths in unhealthy patients taking very high doses of Vitamin E. It is essential to consult a physician before commencing on a diet supplemented with Vitamin E.
- Asian (or Panax) ginseng. Often taken in conjunction with Ginkgo Biloba, Asian ginseng may help mitigate some instances of fatigue. However, any memory benefits have been demonstrated in a miniscule percentage of study participants.
Apparently, the jury is still out on many popular over the counter supplements. What is important to note is that many of these natural herbs can work against prescription medication. Whether you are a younger or older patient, full disclosure with your doctor is paramount if you are on meds. Furthermore, be sure to consult your doctor or an experienced medical professional before taking any OTC supplement.