Brain supplements that claim to boost cognitive function are increasingly popular, growing from a $4 billion industry of about 4,000 unique products to a $40 billion industry with as many as 80,000 different products on the market.
… Following a recent study, clinicians are warning consumers that some of these cognitive enhancement supplements may be dangerous for health, because they contain illegal ingredients with potentially dangerous mixtures and doses … Cohen and colleagues searched the National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Label Database and the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database for brain health supplements, analyzing 10 over-the-counter supplements sold in the United States with eight explicitly marketed to enhance mental function.
The group found four illegal ingredients in the supplements, and another known as vinpocetine that is a legal ingredient, Cohen said. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously warned that vinpocetine, which is available for use in some countries as a drug to treat acute stroke and cognitive impairment, should not be consumed by women of childbearing age … Meanwhile, some drugs that were listed on the products’ labels seemed to be absent as the researchers did not detect their presence when testing the ingredients.
Five unapproved drugs found in cognitive enhancement supplements (Neurology). From the Abstract:
- Objective: To identify the presence of unapproved pharmaceutical drugs in over-the-counter dietary supplements marketed to improve memory and cognitive function.
- Methods: Supplements were identified by searching 2 supplement databases for products labeled as containing either omberacetam, aniracetam, phenylracetam or oxiracetam, 4 drugs not approved for human use in the US …
- Results: In the 10 products tested, omberacteam and aniracetam were detected along with 3 additional unapproved drugs (i.e., phenibut, vinpocetine and picamilon). By consuming recommended serving sizes, consumers could be exposed to pharmaceutical-level dosages of drugs … Several detected drugs were not declared on the label, and several declared drugs were not detected in the products. For those products with drug quantities provided on the labels, 75% (9/12) of declared quantities were inaccurate. Consumers could be exposed to up to four-fold greater than pharmaceutical dosages and as many as 4 unapproved drugs when using individual products.
- Conclusions: Over-the-counter cognitive enhancement supplements may contain multiple unapproved drugs. The health effects of consuming untested combinations of unapproved drugs at unpredictable dosages without clinician oversight in supplements is unknown.
The Study in Context:
- Study: Some “brain-boosting” supplements sold in the US contain not-approved drugs at supratherapeutic doses, exposing users to unknown side effects
- AARP: A majority of Americans believe dietary supplements improve brain health, despite the lack of evidence
- The FDA cracks down on dozens of supplements claiming to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s Disease
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- What are cognitive abilities and how to boost them?
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