Brain-boosting supplements, much like weight-loss supplements, are extremely popular. But, as all dietary supplements, they are not well regulated and they can have dangerous ingredients. Elizabeth Cooney reports for Stat News on new research out of Harvard Medical School that should give anyone thinking about taking brain-boosting supplements pause.
Dr. Pieter Cohen studied five different brands of brain-boosting supplements. As he reported in JAMA Internal Medicine, they all contain piracetam, a drug which is not FDA-approved and cannot be sold in the US. Cochrane looked at 24 studies of piracetam and found that there was not sufficient evidence to show that it improved people’s memory, or their ability to learn or to understand.
A standard dose of piracetam has been found to cause anxiety, agitation and depression. People who take supplements with piracetam have no way of knowing the dosage they are taking. It could be way more than the standard dose. And, it could be dangerous to their health.
But, the FDA is doing nothing to stop its sale. Moreover, the FDA is doing nothing to warn the public about the dangers of piracetam. However, the federal government’s dietary supplement law prohibits companies from selling supplements with piracetam, because it is considered unsafe.
The FDA has limited resources for oversight. And, it is not using those resources to monitor supplements to the extent needed. Instead it is proposing a new rule that would require dietary supplement manufacturers to notify the FDA of all their products.
For now, you are better off eating a healthy diet and avoiding supplements.
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