A 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report analyzed hundreds of ads promoting memory-enhancing supplements online and identified 27 making what seemed to be illegal claims about treating or preventing diseases such as dementia.
But even legal claims that suggest supplements will improve, boost, or enhance your memory “don’t have to have any data to justify them,” says Lon Schneider, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. (“… Dietary supplements cannot cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent Alzheimer’s, dementia, or any disease,” said a statement from the Council on Responsible Nutrition, an industry group, responding to the GAO report.)
Supplements are also loosely regulated, and some may even contain undisclosed ingredients or prescription drugs. Many interact (sometimes dangerously) with medications—ginkgo biloba, for example, should never be paired with blood thinners, blood pressure meds, or SSRI antidepressants. “Don’t be misled by hype,” says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., CR’s chief medical adviser. “They are not only a waste of money, but some can also be harmful.”