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Brain health supplements ‘a waste of money’, say global experts

A healthy diet is the best way to keep the mind sharp, the Global Council on Brain Health said.

Supplements marketed as boosting brain health are a ‘waste of money’, a team of experts has said (PA)
Supplements marketed as boosting brain health are a ‘waste of money’, a team of experts has said (PA)

Dietary supplements which claim to boost brain health are a “waste of money” and a good diet is the best way to keep the mind sharp, a team of international experts has said.

Tablets, capsules and powders marketed to improve brain health, memory and smartness – or even fight diseases like dementia – are simply “too good to be true”, they warned.

Members of the Global Council on Brain Health, formed of doctors and professors, have instead drawn up a list of tips to maintain brain health – naming diet as the key factor.

Age UK backed the GCBH report, which focuses on people aged 50 plus, and has urged older people to save money, rather than buy into a supplements market worth nearly £1 billion in Britain.

These eminent experts have concluded it doesn’t do any good to take supplements to promote your brain health in later life. Caroline Abrahams

“For most people, the best way to get your nutrients for brain health is from a healthy diet,” the report said.

“We do not endorse any ingredient, product or supplement formulation specifically for brain health, unless your health care provider has identified that you have a specific nutrient deficiency.”

The experts added: “Save your money. Buying supplements to benefit your brain health is likely a waste of your money.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Beware if a supplement claims to improve brain health or memory, make you smarter, or cure a brain disease.”

Backing the findings, Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “These eminent experts have concluded it doesn’t do any good to take supplements to promote your brain health in later life so our advice to older people is to save your money and spend it on a healthy diet, full of delicious fruit and vegetables instead.”

The panel also recommended people currently using supplements seek advice from their doctor or GP about whether they are necessary.

People should ask themselves whether they already get enough of the nutrients they take through their normal diet, they said.

Scientists from Britain, the United States and four other countries evaluated sources including peer-reviewed studies and trials to draw up the report.

They added that vitamin B12 and B9 deficiency can negatively affect brain health, and supplements can help, while vitamin D can also benefit general health in people diagnosed with levels lower than recommended.

But “there is insufficient evidence that other supplements benefit brain health”, their report stressed.

“The GCBH encourages manufacturers of dietary supplements to conduct, support and publish rigorous human studies that are independently reviewed by other scientists who can evaluate supplements’ effects on brain health,” it said.

PA

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