Best Bets for Memory Sharpening?
By Dr Andrew Weil
Question: What do you think of Prevagen, a product being promoted for memory repair?
Answer: I wouldn't depend on Prevagen to aid memory or "boost brainpower" as its promoters claim. I've seen no compelling, independent evidence that it helps with either. If you're concerned about memory loss, some degree of which is normal with aging, I would focus on more proven protective strategies. Keep your mind active by reading newspapers and books, doing word puzzles, playing card games or musical instruments, participating in ongoing education, and learning a new language.
In addition, accumulating scientific evidence suggests that physical exercise helps keep your mind sharp and your memory from slipping. A study at the University of Pittsburgh found that brain volume increased in areas associated with memory in seniors who took 40-minute walks three days a week for one year. And a study in mice at Columbia University found that exercise triggered blood flow and cell growth in brain areas linked to age-related memory decline.
Other evidence suggests that staying socially connected lowers risk of dementia and age-related memory loss. I believe that social and intellectual engagement is highly protective and an important strategy for healthy aging.
As for supplements to help memory, these are your best bets:
- Ginkgo biloba is a well-studied botanical remedy with a reputation for enhancing memory. It may also slow the progression of dementia in early onset Alzheimer's disease. Look for products standardized to 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones; the dose is 60 to 120 milligrams twice a day with food. (Ginkgo may cause mild stomach irritation.)
- Acetyl-L-carnitine (also called ALC or ALCAR) is an amino acid derivative that has improved cognitive performance and memory in Alzheimer's patients in several clinical trials. The dose is 500 to1,000 milligrams twice a day on an empty stomach. ALCAR is nontoxic, but expensive.
- Phosphatidyl serine (PS) is a naturally occurring lipid component of cell membranes that is considered a brain nutrient. Human studies have shown positive effects on memory and concentration: PS may improve cognitive function in normal adults and may help reverse age-related cognitive decline. These supplements are fairly expensive. The starting dose is 100 milligrams two or three times a day; if improvements occur after a month or more, it may be possible to take a lower maintenance dose. Like the other supplements listed above, PS is nontoxic.
Please note: Health advice given in this publication may not be right for your particular case and you should seek your own profession opinion before acting on said advice.
Andrew Weil, M.D., is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, a healing oriented approach to health care which encompasses body, mind, and spirit.
Combining a Harvard education and a lifetime of practicing natural and preventive medicine, Dr. Weil is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (AzCIM) at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, in Tucson, where he is also a Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health and the Lovell-Jones Professor of Integrative Rheumatology. Dr. Weil received both his medical degree and his undergraduate AB degree in biology (botany) from Harvard University.
Dr. Weil is an internationally-recognized expert for his views on leading a healthy lifestyle, his philosophy of healthy aging, and his critique of the future of medicine and health care. Approximately 10 million copies of Dr. Weil's books have been sold, including Spontaneous Healing and Why Our Health Matters.
Online, he is the editorial director of drweil.com, the leading web resource for healthy living based on the philosophy of integrative medicine. He can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/DrWeil, Twitter at twitter.com/DrWeil, and Dr. Weil's Daily Health Tips blog at drweilblog.com.