For years now, there’s been growing interest in supplements that may help improve and maintain healthy brain function.
This is true of all age groups.
Students and young professionals want energy and edge.
Aging baby boomers want to keep the sharpness of focus that they’ve always enjoyed.
As a result, business is booming for supplements that can support brain function in any way.
Most of what we see are nootropics that work with neurotransmitters and their components to improve focus, clarity, and memory.
The product we’re looking into today, however, is similar but also different.
Prevagen is marketed toward the older population, and it’s primary goal is to preserve as well as improve healthy brain activity.
Prevagen Ingredients and How They Work
The single active ingredient in Prevagen is Apoaequorin. We are going to take a look at what exactly this is and any scientific research that is pertinent to the topic at hand. Since the entire functionality of this supplement is based on one ingredient exclusively, it must certainly be novel.
Apoaequorin is a calcium binding protein that was originally discovered in jellyfish. This protein has been shown to improve memory, but doesn’t have a great deal of research regarding its safety over the long-term.
It is believed that issues with calcium regulation in the brain play a substantial role in memory induced problems as we age. Since Apoaequorin is similar to calcium binding proteins in the brain, the idea is that Apoaequorin can step in and fill the same role.
By binding to calcium, Prevagen is able to reduce overall active calcium levels in the brain and therefore, improve short-term memory.
While Apoaequorin was originally found in jellyfish, the active ingredient is produced in a Wisconsin laboratory that is cGMP compliant and NSF certified. In other words, the makers of Prevagen aren’t slaughtering millions of jellyfish in order to extract Apoaequorin. However, according to the FDA, this also means that Apoaequorin is a synthetic protein, meaning that it is not an acceptable ingredient in a dietary supplement.
Side Effects of Prevagen
The company states that, Apoaequorin is generally recognized as a safe food ingredient, according to an “independent panel of experts.” However, the FDA has thousands of user complaints that suggest otherwise.
In a 2012 FDA warning letter to Quincy Bioscience Manufacturing, there is a reference to more than 1,000 side effects reported by individuals who took this product. In that same letter, it is stated that the clinical studies conducted on Prevagen didn’t report side effects like fainting, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and vertigo. In addition, some of the reported user side effects include dizziness, headache, and nausea, while others claim that their memory became increasingly worse, had a difficult time sleeping, and experienced anxiety while using this product.
Another concern regarding Prevagen, is the long-term safety, as there aren’t any long-term studies on this supplement.
There is one study on rats that indicated that Apoaequorin, even in large doses, does not appear to have toxic side effects. So at least this protein doesn’t cause acute toxicity, meaning that it appears to be safe over the short-term.
In another study in 2014, Prevagen wasn’t shown to cause an allergic reaction and is easily digested by pepsin, a protein digesting enzyme. Again, this should be reassuring to people who are worried about short-term exposure and allergic potential.
Prevagen Is Clinically Validated?
A number of clinical studies on Apoaequorin have been performed. The first is the The Madison Memory Study. In this study, 218 adults were either given a placebo or 10 mg of Apoaequorin daily.
At the end, all were assessed using a variety of memory tests and the determination was that Apoaequorin improved memory. In fact, the experimental group that received Apoaequorin showed an 11.9% improvement over baseline.
However, an in-depth look at this study shows that this improvement was only experienced in people who didn’t have memory problems to start with, while subjects who had memory issues didn’t notice an improvement at all. Since the people who are interested in taking this product likely have memory problems to begin with, is this supplement likely to offer any relief?
In another study displayed on the company website labeled, The Impact Of Prevagen On Memory, 56 healthy subjects took it over a three-month period. According to the results, subjects reported that their memory was better after this time period. However, a study like this doesn’t really add a whole lot of value, as this experimental group knew that they were receiving a memory enhancement supplement and any improvement could be attributed to the placebo effect.
In a third study provided by the company, The Impact Of Prevagen On Sleep Quality, 55 healthy people were given Prevagen over the course of 90 days.
The results showed that people receiving Prevagen were able to get more sleep at night. Again, this study was not peer-reviewed and the results could be attributed to the placebo effect.
Unfortunately, this is about as far as clinical studies go and there aren’t any long-term studies on the safety of this product.
Looking back at the 2014 study that determines Apoaequorin is digested by pepsin, we have to wonder if this supplement even has the potential be effective? Since Apoaequorin is hydrolyze by pepsin, an enzyme in the stomach, it is likely to be fully digested into amino acids before being absorbed by the intestines. Based on this knowledge, consuming amino acids are likely to offer the same results, but for far less money.
In fact, there is a lawsuit in 2015 against the makers of Prevagen that specifically target this concern.
Accordingly, the lawsuit states that, “Apoaequorin is completely destroyed by the digestive system and transformed into common amino acids no different than those derived from common food products such as chicken, cold cuts, hamburgers, etc.”
The company that makes Prevagen disagrees completely and says that this does not happen. However, when doing so, they completely turn a blind eye to the study that specifically says that Apoaequorin is digested by pepsin.
Even if Apoaequorin was injected directly in the body, it is questionable whether it would pass through the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB).
However, since consuming certain amino acids have an effect on improving short-term memory, this is likely the result of using this product.
Customer Reviews of Prevagen
On Amazon, Prevagen has received 3.8 stars out of 5 stars. 50% of all reviews are a 5 star rating with only 17% of participants giving this product a 1 star rating. While it would appear that such an overwhelming number of 5 star reviews make using this product a “no brainer”, some of the negative ratings discuss terrible side effects that should give potential consumers a reason to pause.
People who gave Prevagen a 5 star rating had rave reviews saying that their ability to recall thoughts has improved and their overall memory was significantly better. In addition, many claimed that they slept better at night. Since sleeping well during the night has the potential to improve short-term memory throughout the day, these aspects could be interrelated.
While many note the high price as a deterring factor, many users reveal that Prevagen cleared their thinking and a gave them a sharper mind. Others claim that they were less stressed out and more focused. With all of these positive attributes, it may be hard to believe that some people had negative things to say about this product.
Of the many people that gave Prevagen a 1 star review, some touted that their memory did improve, a positive aspect, however, the side effects of taking this supplement were awful. One reviewer states that her focus was three times worse than before she took this product. In addition, the same reviewer said that she would all of a sudden black out and have no idea where she was even when she was driving!
Others claim to have withdrawal like effects after stopping this product. For instance, one person claimed that after not taking this product for a week, she was unable to stay focused and wasn’t able to remember basic things.
Other simply state that this product did not work, even after using it for three months and many point out that the company that makes Prevagen is being sued by federal agencies. If this FDA is looking into the validity of this product, it would make sense that consumers should be concerned.
With even a small percentage of people claiming to have terrible side effects, consuming this product may be a difficult choice for individuals who are looking for something safe and effective. People who are having a problem recalling items may be able to benefit by using Prevagen, as many clearly have, but should realize that some users had horrible side effects that made their mental acuity even worse than before they took it.
Prevagen and the FDA
Back in 2011, Quincy Bioscience ran into trouble with the FDA for some of their advertising claims and manufacturing practices.
Basically, the FDA found Prevagento be making claims that it cured or prevented disease (Alzheimer’s).
A product that claims to be a dietary supplement cannot also claim to cure or prevent disease. Only drugs can do that.
But if your product is a drug, it is heavily regulated by the FDA and requires years of expensive development and testing before it can be brought to market.
It appears as though Prevagen has straightened out its problems with the FDA by changing its advertising and straightening out its manufacturing and record keeping processes.
Prevagen Pros and Cons
Advantages of Prevagen
- There are lot’s of favorable Prevagen reviews from customers who’ve use it, far more than the occasional negative review.
- It’s made by a reputable and successful company.
- The company has put Prevagen through some clinical testing and it’s been shown to be effective.
Disadvantages of Prevagen
- It’s expensive.
- The company did run afoul of the FDA by making unsubstantiated claims, and that leads to a bit of mistrust.
Where to Buy
You can purchase Prevagen online or in stores like Walgreens.
It comes in 4 forms: regular, extra strength, professional strength, and chewable. 30 capsules of the regular strength costs $40 and lasts a month at the recommended dose.
Based on the limited long-term clinical studies on this product and thousands of side effects reported by users, it may be best to search for a memory aid that has more research behind it.
When actually looking at the research regarding Prevagen, it appears that the active ingredient is entirely digested in the stomach, rendering it into basic amino acids. Since certain amino acids offer benefits to people who are suffering from short-term memory loss, it makes sense that this product would provide relief to some individuals.
Based on the 2015 lawsuit that discusses the breakdown of Apoaequorin in the stomach, it is safe to say that people are paying an extraordinarily high price for amino acids in a novel form.
Since amino acids provide a wide range of benefits, consider consuming them in their original form instead of taking this overpriced supplement.
People who consume amino acids for memory assistance should also consider consuming B vitamins, ginkgo biloba, and omega-3 fatty acids, before resorting to synthetic proteins that have been reported to cause countless side effects in individuals taking this product.
With any novel products like Prevagen, people should approach them with a degree of caution, as their long-term safety hasn’t been determined.
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