Focus Factor is touted ―on its website―as being “America's #1 Brain Health Supplement, and most of us have probably seen it advertised on TV as well as in various stores. Since writing my review of the memory supplement called Procera AVH, several people have asked me to review Focus Factor so, here I want to look specifically at the main ingredients in this product and the evidence for each as they pertain to memory and dementia. I'll also try to boil its ingredients down to those that I feel might have the most evidence. By the end of this review, my hope is that you have a better understanding about Focus Factor and if it might be right for you. After you are finished with this review, also see my review of NooTroBrain, another memory supplements I've looked at which shares some similar ingredients to Focus Factor.
Focus Factor Ingredients
According to FocusFactor.com, Focus Factor contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, but I'm not going to cover them because I don't feel they contribute anything to helping memory in people who take a multivitamin or eat even remotely healthy. Rather, I want to focus on the key ingredients that are specifically highlighted on the Product Info page of the website. Those ingredients are as follows:
- Vitamin B-12 and B-6
- Vitamin D-3
These are some of the ingredients in the Focus Factor proprietary formula. 4 tablets of Focus Factor contains 692 mg of this proprietary formula.
Focus Factor Research
On the product website, they state that the company sponsored a clinical research study on Focus Factor. This study involved 96 healthy adults (18-65 years of age. The average age was 49), lasted 6 weeks and 89 people completed the study. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of Focus Factor on memory, concentration and focus vs. placebo in healthy adults. The results showed that Focus Factor “improved abilities referred to as memory, concentration, and focus in healthy adults.”
This study is likely why they make the claim shown on the bottle that Focus Factor “is clinically shown to improve memory, concentration and focus.” While I applaud the company for sponsoring research on their product, a couple of things occurred to me as I read the study summary:
1. The study does not appear to be published. I can't find any reference to where I can read the entire study. Therefore, the study might not be peer reviewed. Why would the company do a study on their product and then not attempt to publish that study?
2. The study used “healthy” people. There is no mention as to whether the people in this study had any type of memory impairment. This is important because a study of healthy people does not really tell much about how Focus Factor would work in someone with Alzheimer's disease for example.
Focus Factor ingredients research
Here is a brief review of the main ingredients highlighted on the Focus Factor website.
Also called Dimethylaminoethanol. Some studies call it “Deanol.” I searched the National Library of Medicine for:
- DMAE memory
- DMAE brain
- Deanol memory
- Dimethylaminoethanol memory
And I found these studies:
A 1977 study titled Senile dementia: treatment with deanol which noted no improvement in memory in people with senility. This was a small study of only 14 people. It lasted 4 weeks. The study used up to 1800 mg of DMAE, which is almost 3 times the total amount in the Focus Factor proprietary blend (4 tablets have 692 mg).
In 1981 a study titled Double-blind trial of 2-dimethylaminoethanol in Alzheimer's disease, noted no effects of DMAE in those with Alzheimer's disease. This was a small study of only 27 people This study noted that DMAE resulted in more confusion, “retardation,” drowsiness and a mild increase in blood pressure.
In a 2011 review titled Dietary and nutritional treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: current research support and recommendations for practitioners, researchers noted that DMAE might have a “small effect” on ADHD.
In a 2012 study, Phosphatidylcholine supplementation given to pregnant women did not improve infant cognitive function compared to that of a placebo.
In a 1993 study, a very large dose of Phosphatidylcholine helped memory in healthy college students. While that’s encouraging, this study used 25 grams (almost an ounce). That is a LOT more than is in Focus Factor.
This is one of the fish oils (the other being EPA). Its scientific name is Docosahexaenoic acid.
In a 2013 study, titled DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial, DHA helped memory in college students when they used 1.16 grams per day for 6 months. Focus Factor does not tell us how much DHA is in the product but they do say that 4 tablets 692 mg total for all of the ingredients in the proprietary blend. So, the amount of DHA in Focus Factor is less than was used in this study.
In a 2012 study titled Effects of iron and n-3 fatty acid supplementation, alone and in combination, on cognition in school children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention in South Africa, EPA (80 mg) and DHA (420 mg) had no effect on memory in 321 kids (age 6-11) who were deficient in iron, EPA and DHA. This study lasted 8.5 months.
Vitamin B 12 and B6
Vitamin B12 does many good things in the body so I won't cover them all here except to say that deficiency in this vitamin may be common in older adults for reasons such as:
- Reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods
- Reduced appetite as we get older
- Some medications may deplete B12 levels
This can lead to anemia and an overall lack of energy levels. Also, vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to memory problems. So I can understand why a memory supplement like Focus Factor would have some vitamin B12.
That said, since older adults may have a reduced ability to absorb this vitamin, I wonder how much taking it orally would help? This reduced absorption is one reason why doctors give older adults a shot of vitamin B12. Regardless, getting vitamin B12 levels checked is actually a smart idea for older adults.
Both B6 and B12 may be included in Focus Factor for another reason ―depression and attention span.
In this 2012 study titled Status of vitamins B-12 and B-6 but not of folate, homocysteine, and the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase C677T polymorphism are associated with impaired cognition and depression in adults, some older adults who had low levels of B6 and B12 had more depression and a reduced attention span. I'm speculating here but this, in theory may be another reason for the inclusion of these vitamins.
There is some evidence that people who get more vitamin B6 may have lower rates of Alzheimer's but this doesn’t necessarily prove that B6 and Alzheimer's are linked.
This is also called cholecalciferol and it’s the type of vitamin D that we make when we go outside in the sun. The other type is called vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Studies show many older adults are deficient in vitamin D and low levels of vitamin D appear to be associated with memory problems. That said, I'm hard pressed to find research finding that vitamin D helps memory in older adults. Even if it does, does Focus Factor have enough to help? According to its nutrition label, Focus Factor only has 100 IU of vitamin D.
As an aside there are multiple studies showing that vitamin D can reduce falls in older adults. Research on this issue tends about 800 IU (more than is in Focus Factor). Interestingly, many of these studies do not use vitamin D3 but rather vitamin D2 which Focus Factor does not have. Personally, I feel both versions would work the same.
Also called Huperzine A in other products. This is a compound derived from a type of moss (Huperzia serrata). There is memory research on this ingredient. For example, in this small 1999 study huperzine (100 micrograms per day) was found to improve memory in adolescents.
In a 1995 study huperzine (200 micrograms per day) was found to improve memory in a small group of people with Alzheimer's.
Similar results were also noted in another study from 1999 where 200 micrograms helped memory in those with Alzheimer's.
In this 2013 review of the studies of Huperzine and Alzheimer's, researchers noted that while many studies had issues, huperzine appears to offer some benefits to those with Alzheimer's disease
For more on Huperzine, see my review of the memory supplement, Procera AVH.
This is an herb from India. It's also called Brahmi. Its scientific name is Bacopa monnieri. This herb also has some research on it.
In a 2001 study titled The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects, 300 mg per day improved learning rate and other aspects of brain functioning better than placebo after 12 weeks of use.
A 2002 study titled Chronic Effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on Human Memory noted that bacopa appeared to reduce the forgetting of new information.
In a 2010 study titled Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, 300 mg of bacopa was noted to improve memory better than placebo when it was given to 81 older adults for 12 weeks. The product used in this study was called BacoMind, a product of an Indian company called Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd.
Here is a BacoMind on Amazon for those who are interested.
One case study also noted Bacopa may be of help to some people with schizophrenia. Various lab rat studies also appear to show some benefits on memory as well. For more on Bacopa, see my reviews on the anti aging supplement, Protandim as well as the weight loss supplement 1 Db Goddess.
This is basically two vitamin A molecules stuck together. It's also an antioxidant. That said, I can't find any proof that it helps memory. I do believe people should eat more fruits and vegetables because foods supply a more broad spectrum antioxidant protection than individual ingredients isolated from these foods would.
After looking at the ingredients list, I noticed a few other things that I thought were worth mentioning.
This is a synthetic compound that chemically looks like a phytochemical called apovincaine (also called vincamine) found in the Periwinkle plant (Vinca minor). In some studies, this ingredient is called Cavinton, a reference to the vinpocetine-drug sold in Germany which is used to improve blood flow to the brain.
Since restricted blood flow can play a role in reduced memory and dementia, something that improves blood flow might help these conditions. It turns out that vinpocetine has been tested for its effects on memory. Here is short list of the research I found.
In a 1987 study titled A double-blind placebo controlled evaluation of the safety and efficacy of vinpocetine in the treatment of patients with chronic vascular senile cerebral dysfunction, 5mg -10 mg of vinpocetine appeared to improve test cognitive scores compared to those who received a placebo.
In a 16 week trial from 1991, titled Efficacy and tolerance of vinpocetine in ambulant patients suffering from mild to moderate organic psychosyndromes, people with various brain impairments including dementia improved more (via taking tests) with vinpocetine than a placebo.
In a 2012 study, titled Study of the effects of vinpocetin on cognitive functions, researchers noted that vinpocetine improved quality of life of people after 18 months of use.
According to this 2015 review, over 25% of supplements tested did not contain vinpocetine, which again highlights the need to research companies you do business with.
This is often called GABA. In the body, GABA is used as a neurotransmitter ―a chemical that the brain uses to send information. GABA might play a role in reducing blood pressure. Theoretically, reducing blood pressure might reduce damage to blood vessels. This in turn, might allow for better delivery to oxygen and nutrients to the brain, and in this way , let the brain work better. Might this be why GABA is in Focus Factor? This is pure speculation on my part. GABA may also play a role in the formation of memories and this may be another reason why it's in Focus Factor.
Grape Seed Extract
Focus Factor uses a specific type of grape seed extract called Activin, which is a trademarked product of San Joaquin Valley Concentrates. This company, in turn, is actually owned by Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery. Basically the company licensees their product Activin out to other companies which use Activin in their products. There is some research on Activin. In research studies, it's called IH636. I found studies noting that Activin might:
Extracts of grape seeds – called proanthocyanidins – are antioxidants and this may explain some of its effects, or it may be more complicated than this. Does grape seed extract have an effect on memory? It's difficult to say .
Here is Activin on Amazon for those who are interested in this specific type of grape seed extract.
Ingredients With The Most Evidence
Below are the ingredients in Focus Factor that I feel most of the human evidence as it pertains to memory.
Of these 3 ingredients, I believe Huperzine and Bacopa have the most human evidence.
So, for those who want to check them out:
- Here is Huperzine on Amazon
- Here is Bacopa on Amazon
- Here is Focus Factor on Amazon as well.
Focus Factor and ADD
Does Focus Factor help ADD or ADHD? As far as I can tell Focus Factor has not been studied to see if it helps humans with ADD or ADHD.
Who Makes Focus Factor?
According to the product website, the company is called Factor Nutrition Labs LLC. On the Contact page of the website, they list this company address 865 Spring Street Westbrook, Maine 04092. As can be seen from the link, there appears to be a variety of shops at this location such as Portland Glass. According to this 2009 video from the website NewHope360, the company that actually makes Focus Factor is Douglas Labs, a company that makes various nutritional supplements. The Focus Factor website lists a customer service number of 800-825-1423. The BBB also lists 207 321-2300 as another contact number.
According to the Better Business Bureau file, they give Factor Nutrition Labs a rating of “D-“ as of 11/16/13. See the BBB file for more information and updates.
How to Contact Focus Factor
The Contact page of FocusFactor.com lists a customer service number of 800-825-1423. The Better Business Bureau lists (207) 321-2300 as another contact number.
Focus Factor Side Effects
I'm not aware of any bad side effects of Focus Factor as I wrote this review and I welcome learning the thoughts of those who have taken this product. What follows is a short list of potential issues that may occur given some of the ingredients in Focus Factor or its individual ingredients. This list is not complete so check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any health issues.
As is pointed out on this review at WebMd.com, Huperzine may be problem for people with epilepsy, heart disease, ulcers, asthma and emphysema to name a few. Since huperzine may slow heart rate, I wonder if this would be a problem for people who take drugs like beta blockers? Since those with memory problems may have other medical conditions, I feel it's wise to speak to a doctor or pharmacist about huperzine before using Focus Factor.
Bacopa. According to this review at webmd.com, Bacopa might slow down heart rate , so, theoretically it might interact with some blood pressure and heart disease medications. As is reported by WebMd.com, Bacopa might also cause problems for people with asthma or emphysema. Bacopa might also affect how some medications are broken down in the body.
Vinpocetine may have a blood thinning effect. People who take blood thinners should talk to their doctor before experimenting with vinpocetine or supplements that contain it.
Ingredients That Raise Acetylcholine
Acetylcholine (ah seat-toe-co-leen) is a brain chemical that is reduced in people with dementia, including Alzeheimers disease. As is reported in this review at WebMd.com, increasing acetylcholine appears to help some people who have memory problems. I mention this because several of the ingredients in Focus Factor appear to raise acetylcholine levels. They are:
While acetylcholine is necessary to be healthy, too much may cause problems. Might it slow heart rate too much for example? While acetylcholine is usually quickly broken down – I wonder if raising its levels might interact with medications ―such as Alzheimer's medications ―that also raise acetylcholine levels? I say this not to scare anyone but rather to reinforce the idea to talk to your doctor if you take any medications. There is a nice review of acetylcholine at the website NeuroSelf.com for those who want more info.
Does Focus Factor work?
While Focus Factor itself appears to have no peer reviewed evidence, the research on some of its ingredients, makes me wonder if this product might benefit some people with memory issues. Whether this is due to the ingredients I highlighted or to the unique blend of ingredients in Focus Factor, I don't know. Its also possible some people may noticed no benefits. The choice of some of the ingredients in Focus Factor appears logical and this is a similar conclusion I came to for the supplement, Procera AVH which I reviewed previously. I do think people who have health issues or who take medications should speak to their doctor first. I also believe that those who try Focus Factor should start with less than the recommended amount for the first week to see if any side effects occur. I think this is wise advice for any new product people add to their daily supplement regimen.
Here is Focus Factor on Amazon for those who want to read the thoughts of others who have tried it.
What do you think?