"Supplements for brain health show no benefit"

I tend to be skeptical about vitamins and supplements in general (clarification: except in cases where recommended or prescribed by a qualified health professional), so this doesn’t suprise me:

Supplements for brain health show no benefit

A recent study found that a quarter of adults over 50 take a supplement for brain-related health. But that same study, done by experts convened by the AARP, suggests that seniors should spend their money elsewhere. The supplements don’t work.

Supplements for brain health found to have no benefits

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, doctors, scholars and policy experts from all over the world brought together by AARP. After undertaking an evidence review of brain-health supplements’ potential effectiveness, the GCBH determined it could not endorse any ingredient, product or supplement formulation designed for brain health. Instead, the GCBH concluded that for most people, the best way to get your nutrients for brain health is from a healthy diet. Scientific evidence does not support the use of any supplement to prevent, slow, reverse, or stop cognitive decline or dementia or other related neurological disease such as Alzheimer’s.


I recently saw an add on TV for some supplement where they praised it for being able to help you get a better memory. I will always be skeptical of these kinds of things, especially when the manufacturers and distributors don’t have to prove that their “miracle supplement” actually does any good, before it comes onto the market.


Thank you Josh for posting these studies they’re fascinating!

Caveat Emptor. This is not an actual scientific study. It also does not appear to be a formal meta-analysis of existing scientific studies. Rather, it seems to be an assertion of views by a assembly of (so-called) experts called the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), based on their interpretation of the literature. This group was founded by the AARP, which is the organization that is publishing this information as a report. The AARP website appears to exist as a commercial venture.


I think the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is a non-profit organization. They are calling it a report, but the linking site called it a “study”.

I didn’t read the entire report, but the PDF is here with a list of the participants on page 22. It seems like they have good credentials (Harvard, NIH, John Hopkins, etc.).

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It’s a good idea to read the report for anybody who is interested. While I happen to agree with much that is said, there are some red flags in how this is presented by the AARP, so I hope people will read critically.


Well, you just need to click the link at the end of the first article @Josh posted and in that article it says (referring to the study in the first link):

There is, however, one key exception to the report’s overall caution against supplements for brain health, and it’s for those who are diagnosed as being deficient in things like B12, or B9, also known as folate. For those individuals only, supplements may be helpful for brain health. Deficiencies of B12, for instance, have been associated with cognitive function problems, including dementia.

I don’t know why no one seems to look at the ingredients list for these supplements. It literally says exactly what it contains and there are far more studies on each of the individual components than the supplement. Most of them are in fact just vitamins + caffeine and it says this on the label.

Don’t overlook the placebo effect! If you think something is improving your memory, those neurons in your brain begin to link together. See some of Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work on YouTube: “Neurons that fire together, link together!”


Placebo effect aside, even if you just visualize lifting your arm it has been researched to make you stronger as if you had actually exercised or lifted weights, even if you don’t actually believe in it.



I looked it up and found this.

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I’ve been thinking about exercising all week. You mean I might have made some progress?

I like it!


By now there have been a number of studies by now that show for the most part supplements do not, on average, lengthen your life and may even shorten it.

That’s on average. That doesn’t mean there’s no one out there gets any benefit from any supplement. Or that if you found a supplement that gives noticeable benefits that you should discard it. But as a medical policy for people in general, it is not advisable.

Of course, there’s a lot of hype and extravagant promises. There’s a lot of money to be made. And this propels people to buy them. We are at our most vulnerable and gullible when we feel the need to improve ourselves.

But there’s another kind of flawed reasoning underpinning this - and many other fads. That is “It makes sense”. It stand to reason, it’s only logical…

It does make sense. It’s a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. But Science has learned the hard way that many things that make sense in your mind don’t happen in nature.

The full moon has no effect on gardening. Yes it comes a bit closer at one point in its orbit but that’s not necessarily when it shows full and the added gravitational influence is so tiny that the presence of your body walking through the plants has a vastly greater influence.

Sinks and toilets do not drain in different directions in the N & S hemispheres. The same effect that produces the hurricane spin is present in your sink but the effect is vanishingly small compared to which way you swished your hands or filled it.

The Greeks went badly wrong with this. They sat around and thought about things “logically”. They didn’t do experiments. The mighty Aristotle produced a theory of Mechanics that’s rubbish. His theories were debunked by Galileo with a series of childishly simple experiments. They had held sway for 2000 years!

If it makes sense, all you have is a hunch, a hypothesis. In the absence of any solid data, it’s best guess. Do what makes sense. But don’t bet too heavily. You are on thin ice until you can show that Nature agrees with you.

Many beautiful ideas have died when they failed to match up with Nature.

Placebo effect aside, even if you just visualize lifting your arm it has been researched to make you stronger as if you had actually exercised or lifted weights, even if you don’t actually believe in it.

Visualization is a skill that we can apply to everything in life. From sports to relationship, to profession…

Sports people have been using Visualisation even before science proved its effectiveness. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of them who used visualization heavily for improving his body(and mind)!



Visualization is a well established technique in sports. It’s not hard to accept that this works by establishing neural pathways in your motor control. And, IMO like memory training you can easily test that on yourself. In martial arts this is heavily exploited.

But the fact that it actually improves muscle strength! That more than neural learning you get more meat? I find it astonishing. Taken to the absurd, I could become a body builder by watching Arnold. So I laughed.

I have not yet read the paper. Sc American is a very credible journal. So my default assumption is that this is real and very surprising. I wonder by how much?

I know it must seem from recent comments that I’m a contrarian and there’s nothing I will believe without signed documentation :slight_smile: These days, I try to be careful what I take on board.

I don’t think,that is the claim. You cannot just imagine and build muscles with your imagination. It is just that by visualization,you make your body and mind more and more prepared to do things in a certain way. When Arnold visualizes a big bicep,he gets more and more motivated to do the bicep exercise. With visulaisation,his neurons of the brain get more connected and organized to do bicep curls. That is all there is. Visulization prepares the brain to do things in a certain way………

However,there is also claims that with visualization,you can control certain functions of the body. And this is not completely baseless claim. I have seen 'Tummo Meditation" practisioners heating their body so much with the help of breathing and visualization that they could dry up a wet cloth with that heat of the body. This shows how visualization can have dramatic effect on the body.

But it is also true,like many things in life,visualisation is not the solution to everything. And it is nothing supernatural!

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Actually there were articles/papers that claimed you did indeed ‘increase strength’ by visualising yourself doing the motions, the downside to this was that the strength gains while significant were less than when you had actually done the motions, which is kind of expected since people would not visualise things perfectly and there is the actual stimulus. You did not ‘build muscle’ though, but you can retain muscle for longer doing this. I assume however since this works there are likely a lot more hidden ways to exploit visualising for any particular thing you want to achieve. I want to highlight here that rather than preparing you for the motions, the mental imagery albeit less than the actual motion was actually building strength.

It is good because it goes hand in hand , you can both visualise and actually exercise.

Some random sources which have tested this in different ways:
“We conclude that the mental training employed by this study enhances the cortical output signal, which drives the muscles to a higher activation level and increases strength”:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14998709

“regular activation of the cortical regions via imagery attenuates weakness”:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20508474

“The primary finding of this study was that training involving internal mental imagery of strong muscle contractions significantly improved voluntary muscle strength but external mental imagery of the same motor task did not yield such strength increase.”:https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00561/full

“MI(mental imagery) of muscle activation resulted in higher isometric force as compared to both MI of muscle relaxation and passive recovery (respectively +2.1% and +3.5%). MI practice of muscle relaxation also outperformed the control condition (+1.9%). Increased activation of the biceps brachii was recorded under both MI practice conditions compared to control.” this one is based on combining it with isometric exercise on a short term during rest periods:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26241339

" Neural mechanisms of strength increase after one-week motor imagery training.": https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29249176

None of these are really the sources I read at the time but certainly interesting.


Jack Nicklaus used visualization before each shot. So did Billie-Jean King. You can find links for these.

The high-jumpers are the most “obvious” of the visualizers. Before starting each run, you can see their heads bobbing up and down as they visualize each step, then the head and shoulders rise as they imagine floating over the bar like thistledown in a twilight breeze.


I’m not really a supplement person but I did find some things that have a good deal of what I would consider ‘solid’ evidence

  1. cocoa
  2. coffee
  3. tea
  4. fruits, vegetables, nuts (not really supplements but totally forget to eat them)
  5. citicholine – totally did not know about this nutrient supplement but it’s one of the few that has solid evidence behind it
  6. magnesium (formulations of mineral which can reach the brain)
  7. smelling rosemary oil – a huge discovery, one of the few things that has solid evidence behind improving working memory, and solid evidence for working memory improvements are hard to come by