Memory-Enhancing Supplements: What's the Evidence?

Memory-Enhancing Supplements: What's the Evidence?

While not CLL related, given the impact of CLL related fatigue on our ability to think clearly, along with concerns about age related memory decline, I thought this report from Psychiatry Advisor may be of interest:

"The public of is frequently bombarded with advertisements on radio, television, the Internet, and in print about the “latest and greatest” in supplements. These ads tout claims for the improvement of many ailments, from weight-loss to memory enhancement. Supplements can be obtained without a prescription, and are available at a multitude of grocery, pharmacy, health food, and other stores, as well as online.

In the United States, the FDA tightly regulates pharmaceuticals. However, the agency does not regulate supplements as stringently. According to the FDA's website, the producers of dietary supplements do not need FDA approval prior to selling their product. The manufacturers must follow Dietary Supplement Current Good Manufacturing Practices and they must submit any “serious adverse event reports” to the FDA.

However, the FDA does regulate labeling, as the Federal Trade Commission regulates advertising for the supplements. The consumer is not guaranteed of the efficacy, safety, or integrity of ingredients the manufacturer uses. This lack of strong regulation makes it easier for potentially dishonest manufacturers/marketers to take advantage of consumers." (My emphasis - Neil)

"This study collected information about supplements that are available on the Internet and at retail stores. Thirty-one different supplements were studied, with 92 or more different ingredients identified in the 31 supplements. Only the most common ingredients (14 of 92, each of which were found in more than one quarter of the supplements)"

The report goes on to look at evidence from PubMed articles regarding the efficiency of the supplements, the risk of potential drug-drug interactions and limitations of the study.


In the United States, there is little regulation of the safety, tolerability, efficacy, and integrity of over-the-counter supplements, as these supplements are not considered medications. Additionally, the paucity of large, placebo-controlled trials studying the safety and efficacy of these ingredients heightens concern for their use. Consumers are not guaranteed that the supplements they purchase are safe, nor are they guaranteed that the supplements will improve cognitive impairment."


1 Reply

  • Good post. So important to know. Other risks include hepatotoxicity from the agents and potential drug interactions with prescription medications. Since you really don't know what ingredients are present you cannot adequately run a drug interaction profile.

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