Brain supplements are gaining popularity as baby boomers hit retirement age and seek to avoid dementia. But there is little evidence that they are better at preventing cognitive decline than eating healthy and exercising. It seems like you cannot watch television these days without seeing a commercial touting an over-the-counter supplement that can improve memory and enhance mental acuity. You’ve seen them – mature boomers testifying to the clarity of thought and improved recall that they experience by taking these brain-boosting products.
The message is persuasive. Is there anybody over 50 who wouldn’t want to maintain their cognitive skills and remember where they put their keys? Yes, the market for what are called nootropics is booming as millions of aging individuals long to stay sharp and fight off cognitive decline.
Now, just for the record, there are several well-known and physician-prescribed drugs under the banner of nootropics – stimulants, like Ritalin and Adderall, and synthetic compounds such as piracetam. My focus is what viewers see in the commercials, and what they’ll be drawn to – flashy off-the-shelf enhancements portrayed as wonder drugs.
Sales growth projections document the increasing demand for these supplements. This comes despite questions about their effectiveness and scientific evidence that shows prescription drugs to be more effective at enhancing executive function. While popping a healthy-sounding supplement fits right in with today’s cultural norms, are nootropics the best way to keep your brain healthy?
Science offers alternatives that come highly recommended by experts. These options are rooted in holistic, healthy behaviors that can benefit both your mind and body. Though the prospect of taking a pill everyday may sound more appealing than a trip to the gym or a plate of fruits and vegetables, the rewards offered by this alternative are worth considering. Let’s take a look. Projected growth
A review of the research on nootropics shows variation in the estimates of global market size, but consistency when it comes to growth projections.
Verified Market Research shows the global market for nootropics was at $2.42 billion in 2020 and projects the market will hit $6.29 billion by 2028, almost a 13% growth rate.
According to Grand View Research , nootropics had a global market value of almost $11 billion in 2021. The firm projects annual growth just over 15% through 2028, increasing the market value to almost $30 billion.
Million Insights market research database forecasts that the global nootropics market size will reach $4.94 billion by 2025, reflecting annual growth of 12.5% through the period of 2019 to 2025.
And market research from Technavio anticipates growth of 12.42% for nootropics through 2026, with 46% of this growth occurring in North America, and largely driven by the US. Questions about nootropics
Though demand is surging for memory-improving products, there are serious questions from legitimate sources as to whether these brain boosters work.
A study published in the journal Neurology Clinical Practive shows that over-the-counter cognitive enhancement supplements may contain multiple drugs unapproved drugs for use in the U.S. The study concludes with a cautionary note: the health effects of ingesting untested combinations and dosages of these drugs absent clinical engagement are unknown.
“There is little hard evidence that these products are either safe or effective for consumers to use,” adds Chuck Bell, programs director for Consumer Reports advocacy division.
And Harvard Medical School , pointing to a survey that about 25% of people over 50 use supplements to improve their brain health, reports that there is no proof that any of them work. The alternative: healthy living
If you’re willing to consider an alternative, there is one that, by all counts, comes highly endorsed by the medical community. It’s quite simple: live healthy. Here is what the experts say.
The Cleveland Clinic promotes exercise for brain health, highlighting aerobic exercises like running, biking, swimming and dancing as ways to increase your heart rate and keep your brain in top shape. The health system recommends 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity three days per week or 30 minutes of moderately intensive activity five days a week.
The physicians at the Cleveland Clinic characterize physical and aerobic activity as “very beneficial even in people who are at risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” They also point to studies showing the enhanced benefits of combining exercise with a heart-healthy diet.
The Mayo Clinic also endorses diet and exercise to slow any decline in memory and lower the risk of dementia. It adds sleep, mental activity and social engagement as additional strategies, too. Their advice is to treat your brain as a muscle and keep it in shape with challenging activities, like crossword puzzles and cards games.
The Mayo Clinic cautions that watching television does little to stimulate your brain. Socialization is a terrific way to stave off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. The more you engage with others the better the health of your brain.
I previously wrote about how my late father was socially active into his early 90s. His love for socializing and debating the stories of the day kept him mentally sharp right up to the time of his death. It was a real-life lesson for me in the value of human interaction and proof that the science is spot-on when it comes to the power of social interaction. Your choice
Growing interest in memory supplements is a logical outcome of the swell of baby boomers. It reflects our natural gravitation to the path of least resistance and ease of adoption. Taking a pill will always be more attractive than the discipline and commitment required to live healthy.
However, as the science shows, the results are proportionate to the investment. As a commercial from years ago stated: a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Boomers, take heed. We get what we give and if we do not give our brains the workout they need, we will be even more vulnerable to the aging process.
Ignore the commercials, grab your sneakers – not the supplements. It is the best thing you will ever remember doing.
Louis Bezich, senior vice […]