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Supplements for Brain Health Found to Have No Benefits Skip to content

More than a quarter of adults in the United States age 50 and older take at least one supplement for brain-health reasons.  (26% according to the recent 2019 AARP Brain Health and Dietary Supplements Survey).  Brain-health supplements generated $3 billion in sales globally in 2016 and are projected to reach $5.8 billion by 2023.  It’s a massive waste of money.  Despite adults’ wide-spread use of brain-health supplements, there appears to be little reason for it.  

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.


For the small handful of dietary supplements that have been well-researched, the results showed no brain health benefit in people with normal nutrient levels. It’s unclear whether people with nutritional deficiencies can benefit their brains by taking a supplement, because the research is inconclusive. Therefore, beyond a few very specific nutrients taken to replace an identified deficiency, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of supplements to benefit the brain.

Beyond the lack of evidence of effectiveness for brain–health supplements, significant concerns exist about the truth of claims made in their marketing and about their potential lack of safety and purity.   Because supplement manufacturers and distributors often make vague or exaggerated claims about brain health, and dietary supplements are sold without premarket governmental review of their safety and efficacy or the truthfulness of their claims, consumers should approach claims made on supplement packaging and in advertisement with skepticism.   Unfortunately, supplement ingredients are not generally reviewed for purity and content by government agencies before they are allowed to be sold and the quality of the ingredients can vary widely. Some may contain ingredients that could even harm consumers.  

The GCBH recommends consumers save their money and adopt healthy lifestyles habits instead. 

To find out more about dietary supplements, read this article by Kathleen Fifield.

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Infographic

The GCBH does not recommend any dietary supplement for brain health    

Supplements bottle graphic

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2019 AARP Brain Health and Supplements Survey

Evidence is lacking concerning the effectiveness of vitamins and dietary supplements in boosting brain health, but that doesn’t stop people from using them, according to new AARP research.  Learn more.

Supplements Issue Specialists

PAUL M. COATES, Ph.D.

Former director of the Office Dietary Supplements, NIH, USA

TOD COOPERMAN, M.D.

President and founder, ConsumerLab.com, USA

STEVEN DEKOSKY, M.D.

University of Florida, USA

HOWARD FILLIT, M.D.

Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, USA    

FRANCINE GRODSTEIN, SC.D.

Harvard University, USA

KRISTI MULDOON JACOBS, PH.D.

Director, Regulatory Science and Toxicology, United States Pharmacopeia, USA

TIMOTHY KWOK, M.D.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

FACUNDO MANES, M.D., PH.D.

President of the INECO Foundation for Research in Neuroscience, Argentina

LISA MOSCONI, PH.D.

Weill Cornell Medical College, USA             

FATI NOURHASHEMI, M.D., PH.D.

Toulouse University Hospital, France

NIKOLAOS SCARMEAS, M.D., M.S.

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece; Columbia University, USA

GARY SMALL, M.D.

University of California Los Angeles, USA

BLOSSOM STEPHAN, PH.D.

University of Newcastle, UK

ONDINE VAN DE REST, PH.D.

Division of Human Nutrition and Health, Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands

Suggested Citation: 

Global Council on Brain Health (2019). "The Real Deal on Brain Health Supplements: GCBH Recommendations on Vitamins, Minerals, and Other Dietary Supplements." Available at www.GlobalCouncilOnBrainHealth.org

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26419/pia.00094.001