Brain Supplements – Are they safe? Do they work?

This question was posed by a reader who had heard about natural brain supplements from the website Alpha Brain Review.  I checked out the website and I must admit that I found it to be very ironic as I encountered several grammatical errors on a site that was supposed to promote brain function.  Now, to be honest, nowhere does it claim that it will make you a better speller or eliminate grammatical errors, but still – if it’s helping with focus and clarity you would think that a quick read-through to double check for errors would be in order before posting to the web.

Ok – so grammatical prejudices aside, let’s take a look at brain supplements from a medical stand point.

When considering a supplement, the first thing to ask is why?  Are you having memory problems, trouble focusing, etc. or are you just trying to ace a test for which you are not prepared?  Supplements are not a substitute for adequate preparation and they are not a substitute for a proper nutrition.  Supplements treat deficiencies. There is no reason to think that taking additional nutrients beyond the minimum necessary will have functional benefits.

And, if you’ve been having memory problems or trouble focusing and this is not normal for you – then perhaps a trip to the doctor is in order.  It could be that there’s a medical reason behind these issues.

Next to consider are the claims of the supplement.  Whenever you encounter these types of supplements, the first thing you usually see is the word natural.  The ingredients are all things you would encounter in nature.  Natural, however, isn’t always safe.  Check out the ingredients.  WebMD allows you to search for supplements and see an unbiased review that includes uses, side effects, interactions, and dosing.  This review will also include the science, identifying if there is actually evidence to support the claims that are made.

With regard to Alpha Brain, there is very little science.  The ingredients I researched are all touted to be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease, but there is insufficient evidence to support any of these claims.

There is research, however, that supports the following with regards to improving memory:

  • A healthy diet, in particular a Mediterranean diet which focuses on fruits, vegetables, and nuts with moderate amounts of dairy, fish, and poultry.
  • Challenging your brain to learn new things.
  • Exercise.

So, when it comes to supplements, brain or otherwise, do your homework.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D.




3 thoughts on “Brain Supplements – Are they safe? Do they work?

  1. This is an interesting article and backs up a lot of the things I have been promoting on my site. I think that the whole package of a healthy lifestyle is the key but some supplements can have their place when an individual cannot maintain the recommended diet, sleep, exercise regime. Amelie

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