Prevagen is marketed as a supplement to help your memory, brain function, and cognitive health. The primary active ingredient in the brain health supplement is apoaequorin. There is limited research on Prevagen for memory loss, however, and below, we detail more about what you should know about whether or not it works.
What is Prevagen?
Prevagen is a supplement that aims to help people with mild memory loss, particularly when it’s associated with general cognitive aging.
The ingredient in the supplement that’s supposed to help memory and cognitive function is apoaequorin.
Apoaequorin comes from jellyfish. It’s a protein obtained in 1962, and when it’s exposed to calcium, the protein binds to it and produces blue light.
One reason it’s an interesting supplemental ingredient is that researchers believe problems with the regulation of calcium in the human brain could play a role in mental decline related to aging. The ingredient has a structure similar to the calcium-binding proteins in humans. The idea of the supplement is that it could help regulate calcium levels in the brain, reducing mental decline and memory loss.
Some claim the protein can help with symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and sleep quality.
Apoaequorin is made up of 196 amino acids.
While it was originally extracted from jellyfish, it’s not exclusively available as what’s called a recombinant protein by Quincy Bioscience, a company based in Madison, Wisconsin.
Does It Work?
Currently, there’s limited research on the effectiveness of Prevagen for memory loss and aging-related cognitive decline, but there are a few studies.
In one study conducted by the Prevagen manufacturer, there were no differences in cognitive function between the group that took the ingredient and those that didn’t.
In another randomized controlled trial done by the manufacturer, 218 older adults participated. The group taking apoaequorin did have a statistically significant improvement in working memory and verbal learning at the end of 90 days.
Otherwise, there are limited human studies.
Prevagen and the Federal Trade Commission
Several years back, the Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney general sued the makers of Prevagen, saying they were making false claims that it improves brain function and memory. There was a long delay, and the lawsuit includes a request for consumer refunds, but it is moving forward again.
Quincy, the company manufacturing the product, says that it has a large body of evidence that the supplement improves memory and supports healthy brain function. Quincy cites preclinical rat studies, canine studies, and human clinical studies.
Neurologists and health care experts say supplements, in general, can go into an area of pseudo-medicine.
They might be legal, but the products could be promoted as treatments supported by science, yet they don’t have the data to back the claim up.
The Alzheimer’s Association has expressed concerns about alternative medicine in general. They say they’re worried that most claims about the safety and effectiveness of these products are based on testimonials rather than scientific research.
The dispute over the effectiveness of Prevagen is linked to two main issues. First, the ingredient apoaequorin is likely digested in the stomach and broken down. That means there’s nothing left to make it past the blood-brain barrier, so it’s unlikely it could affect cognitive function.
The second issue often cited about Prevagen is that the company-funding testing of the product isn’t adequate. In the study of 218 subjects cited above, complaints allege it failed to find a treatment effect for the sample as a whole. They say researchers for Quincy broke down the data in over 30 different ways. Complaints say that positive study findings on isolated tasks for tiny subgroups of the population of the study aren’t reliable evidence to show a treatment effect. The study found three results that could be described as statistically significant and more than 27 that weren’t.
Is It Safe?
While Prevagen may not be effective, it’s generally thought to be fairly safe with minimal side effects like headache, nausea, and dizziness. Overall, available studies have found that it’s well-tolerated and fairly safe for use for up to 90 days, but we don’t know much about long-term safety beyond that point.
We also don’t know a lot about whether or not Prevagen could interact with other drugs because there is limited research.
Prevagen is a massively popular supplement, but there’s little to support the claims that it helps with memory loss or cognition. Some users feel it does, but it’s lacking as far as concrete scientific evidence to support that.