“Prevagen Improves Memory.” Wow! That's the bold statement on website of Prevagen, by Quincy Bioscience. It's also touted as “#1 selling memory supplement in drug stores.” Odds are, you have seen commercials for this jelly fish memory supplement. The supplement website claims it is “clinically shown to help with mild memory problems associated with aging.” OK, bold statements aside, Does Prevagen really work? In this Prevagen review, I'll show you the research and help you understand it. I'll show you the good and not so good. I'll also address possible side effects too. So, is Prevagen a scam? Lets see what the research says.
Other Memory Supplement Reviews
- Prevagen NeuroShake Review
- Nerium EHT Review
- Procera AVH Review
- Procera Protect (Cebria) Review
- Focus Factor Review
- NootoBrain Review
What Is Prevagen?
Prevagen (pronounced prev-uh-gen) is not a prescription drug. Rather, it's a brain health and memory supplement sold online and at various local stores. Supplements designed to improve memory and focus are often called nootropics. You've likely seen the TV commercial for this supplement:
The supplement website states “Prevagen has been clinically tested and shown to improve mild memory problems that occur in aging.” I’ll discuss the research below.
This supplement contains an ingredient from jelly fish, called apoaequorin which is not in other memory products, such as:
See those reviews for additional information on those products.
Prevagen has just 1 main ingredient. It's an protein from jelly fish called apoaequorin (pronounced apo-a-kwar-in). Apoaequorin is said to work by reducing excess calcium levels in the brain.
Too much calcium in the brain seems to reduce how well the brain functions. So, if you could reduce calcium build up in brain cells, this might improve memory. That's the idea anyway. The supplement also contains vitamin D as well.
The Prevagen bottle also tells us these other ingredients are present too:
- White rice flower
- Magnesium stearate
- Acetic acid
- Disodium EDTA
These additional ingredients play no role in the brain health benefits of the supplement.
At Prevagen.com, several clinical studies are listed as evidence for the effectiveness of this supplement. You can see the studies on the product website: Prevagen.com/Research. I've read this research. Here is a summary of those studies along with my thoughts:
Study 1 (Madison Memory Study)
The study is titled: Effects of the Calcium Binding Protein Apoaequorin on Memory and Cognitive Function in Older Adults. It was published here under a different title.
- Subjects: 218 people age 40-91 years of age.
- For 90 days people were randomly given 10 mg of Apoaequorin or a placebo.
- Results: Those getting apoaequorin performed better on various memory and learning tests than those getting the placebo.
Researchers noted apoaequorin significantly improved verbal learning and recall compared to the placebo. The improvement was about 15%. But, this improvement was only seen in those who had no memory problems or mild memory problems.
In other words, apoaequorin (Prevagen) only seemed to work in people who were basically normal. In the people who had significant memory problems, prevagen did not work.
This is a huge problem in my book.
Problems With The Study
The Madison Memory Study has some problems in my opinion:
- The groups did not contain the same number of people. The apoaequorin (Prevagen) group had more people than the control group did.
- The Prevagen group had more men and women than the placebo group did.
- They did not measure calcium levels before/after treatment.
- The study lasted was 3 months. But the paper appearing on Prevagen.com gives the impression the study lasted 2 years (December 3 2009 to April 13 2011). I'm unsure of this dependency.
Another potential issue is all the researchers work for Quincy Biosciences – the company which makes Prevagen. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Just pointing it out in case anyone wondered.
For more info, see the critique from the September 2015 issue of Pharmacy Today (click the link to download the pdf of the critique).
Safety Study 1
This is a lab rat study showing Apoaequorin is safe. Study sponsored by Quincy Biosciences and their researchers.
Safety Study 2
This is a test tube study sponsored by Quincy Biosciences and their researchers.
Safety Study 3
This is a rat study sponsored by Quincy Biosciences with independent researchers.
Previous Prevagen Research
In the past, the Quincy website had also listed other research on Prevagen. Here is a summary for those doing their own research:
The Impact of Prevagen on Memory
Summary of the study:
- Subjects: 56 generally healthy people were given Prevagen for 90 days.
- Results: After 90 days people report on questionnaires that their memory is better.
- This study does not appear to be peer reviewed
- They don’t tell us the ages of the people
- This was an “open label” study. This means everybody knew who was getting Prevagen. In theory, this might influence the outcomes of the study.
Impact of Prevagen on Sleep Quality
Summary of the study:
- Subjects. 55 generally healthy people were followed for 90 days
- Results. People getting Prevagen reported getting more sleep at night
- This does not appear to be a peer reviewed study
- This looks much like the previous investigation
- This was an open label study and might reduce the significance of the results
Prevagen And Brain Blood Flow
Some brain health supplements might also have ingredients (like ginkgo) in the hopes they can improve blood flow to the brain. By giving the brain more blood (and oxygen) the hope is that this will improve memory.
Prevagen works differently than this. Here, the idea is not to improve blood flow to the brain, but rather to reduce the build up of excess calcium inside brain cells. It's a novel and intriguing approach to helping memory. Whether or not this improves blood brain flow needs more research.
Sodium In Prevagen
The bottle indicates that each veggie capsule has 10 mg of sodium. That is less than 1% of the daily value for sodium, so it’s not much. I doubt it would be a problem for people with high blood pressure.
Is Apoaequorin Safe?
The Quincy website has published, a clinical study on the safety of apoaequorin. This study noted – in rats – even very large doses of apoaequorin did not have any effects. That's good.
In another investigation, researchers noted apoaequorin was not expected to cause allergic reactions. That's good too. The researchers also said “Apoaequorin is easily digested by pepsin”, a common protein-digesting enzyme. This is an interesting statement. Does it mean we digest apoaequorin? If we do digest it, how can it work?
Is the Apoaequorin Natural?
The Prevagen website states “Apoaequorin is a protein that was originally discovered in jellyfish and now produced at our cGMP compliant and NSF certified facility in Wisconsin.”
I take this to mean they make Apoaequorin in a lab rather than extract it from jelly fish. This means no jelly fish are involved or harmed from the production of Prevegan. That’s good.
Extra Strength Prevagen
Does Extra Strength Prevagen work better? What's the difference? The extra strength version contains 20 mg of apoaequorin. Regular strength contains 10 mg. Here are the 3 different types of Prevagen side-by-side to see the difference:
|Prevagen Regular Strength||Prevagen Extra Strength||Prevagen Chewables (1 tablet)|
|Vitamin D3, 50 mcg (250%DV)||Vitamin D3, 50 mcg (250%DV)||Total carbs 1g|
|Apoaequorin 10 mg||Apoaequorin 20 mg||Apoaequorin 10 mg|
As you can see Extra Strength contains 20 mg of apoaequorin vs. 10 mg in regular strength. Prevagen Chewables also contain 10 mg of apoaequorin . There is also an extra strength chewables version (not depicted in table) which has 20 mg of apoaequorin.
Before you buy extra strength Prevagen remember the research is on the regular strength (10mg) version. There is no clinical proof taking 20 mg is better than 10 mg.
Is Prevagen Better With Other Supplements?
Would someone get a bigger memory boost effect if they combined Prevagen with other memory enhancing supplements (huperzine, ginkgo, etc.)? Currently there is no evidence either way. I'm not aware of any studies that combined Prevagen with other memory supplements- or other dietary supplements in general.
If you are curious if Prevagen is right for you, it's best to discuss this with a doctor/pharmacist and that is especially true for those who take prescription medications.
Prevagen vs. The Competition
Lets now take a quick look at how this product compares to other memory supplements.
Prevagen vs. Nerium EHT
Nerium EHT is a supplement from the Nerium company. EHT is a reference to a unique compound isolated from coffee called Eicosanoyl-5-HydroxyTryptamide (EHT for short). There is some research on the EHT molecule but I am not aware of any studies that compare Nerium EHT to Prevagen. Both supplements are said to work differently than each other. Whether or not they work better together is unknown.
Prevagen vs. Focus Factor
Focus Factor is very popular memory supplement. You've probably seen its TV commercials. Focus Factor has very different ingredients than Prevagen. There are no clinical trials that compare Focus Factor to Prevagen to see which is better or whether they work better together.
Prevagen vs. Procera AVH
Procera AVH contains ingredients touted to reduce chemicals in the brain and improve oxygen flow. It has different ingredients than Prevagen. There are investigations comparing Procera AVH to Prevagen.
See the Procera AVH review
Prevagen vs. Exercise
Multiple studies suggest a there is a connection between exercise and memory and brain function. If this is true, would Prevagen work better if you also exercised? Maybe but it will take research to know for sure. For those who are able to exercise, even walking has been shown to improve brain health.
Prevagen vs. Adderall
Adderall, is a prescription medication used to treat attention deficient disorder (ADD) and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Given the popularity of the Prevagen TV commercials, some might wonder if this supplement would be a substitute for Adderall.
The first thing to know is Prevagen works differently than Adderall. These two products are not the same. Also until clinical trials are conducted it's not possible to say if this supplement would work the same or better than Adderall.
Who Makes Prevagen?
The company is called Quincy BioScience. The business was started in 2004 and their website is Quincybioscience.com. Their company address is 726 Heartland Trail, suite #300 Madison, WI 53717. According to the FTC, another name for the company is Sugar River Supplements.
Interestingly this is the same address as another company, called Catalent Pharma Solutions (Catalent.com). This company bills itself as “…the world's #1 drug development, delivery and supply partner for drugs, biologics and consumer health products…”
This might be the company which makes Prevagen.
Quincy BioScience is a Better Business Accredited company. The BBB gave the company a rating of “A+” when this review was updated. Sugar River Supplements did not have a rating when this review was updated. See the BBB files for updates and more information.
On Prevagen.com they list a company contact number of 888-565-5385. Another contact number for Quincy BioScience is 608- 827-8000.
Various people have taken issue with this supplement. Complaints I saw when scanning various websites are as follows:
- The TV commercial
- The cost (about $2 per pill)
- The research
- Claims that prey on peoples fears
- Complaints about reoccurring charges
- Side effects
- Complaints it did not work
On the flip-side, others online say they were happy with the results they experienced.
The Prevagen Lawsuit
In 2015 a class action lawsuit was issued which alleges that Prevagen doesn't work. In the pdf file of the lawsuit (click to download), it's argued that apoaequorin is ” completely destroyed by the digestive system and transformed into common amino acids no different than those derived from other common food products such as chicken, cold cuts, hamburgers, etc.”
Remember, one of the Prevagen studies summarized above did say apoaequorin is digested by pepsin…
The makers of Prevagen disagree with the class action lawsuit and say that this does not happen. In January 2017, the FTC along with New York Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the Quincy Bioscience stating that they didn't feel the company had sufficient proof Prevagen worked as advertised. Here is a summary 2017 FTC lawsuit.
Prevagen And The FDA
There has been an ongoing feud between Quincy Biosciences and the FDA and FTC. Here is a summary of the drama which has been going on:
On 10/16/12 the FDA issued a warning letter to Quincy Bioscience. The FDA maintains since apoaequorin is created synthetically, it should be classified as a drug rather than a dietary supplement. They also cite over 1000 adverse events (side effects too), While the report no longer seems to appear on the FDA website, here it is on the Truth In Advertising website (click to download the PDF)
This ultimately went to court but the FDA ended up losing the case.
In 2017, the FTC alleged Quincy was making deceptive claims about their supplement.
For further research, see these resources which I located during my review:
- Memory Drug Called Dangerous Snake Oil
- Quincy Bioscience's Brain Vitamin Suffers Regulatory Migraine
- Is Jellfish the New Brain Food?
- Memory Boosting Supplement: No Evidence FTC Says
Prevagen And Alzheimer’s
There is no evidence Prevagen or apoaequorin improves Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. No proof either way could be located. In the 2016 study summarized above (Madison Memory Study), apoaequorin only seemed to help those who had no memory problems or mild impairment.
Prevagen And Concussions
People, who play football, hockey, soccer, boxers etc., may suffer traumatic brain injuries and memory issues resulting from repeated trauma to the head. Some may wonder if Prevagen can help reduce memory impairment that might result from frequent concussions.
Currently there is no evidence Prevagen helps memory issues resulting from traumatic brain injury. The research has not been done yet.
See the review of Nerium EHT review for more insights on this.
Prevagen And Pets
In one investigation, researchers found apoaequorin may help older dogs with memory and learning. I think more studies need to be done to confirm this.
Can We Absorb Prevagen?
In the Safety assessment of the calcium-binding protein, apoaequorin, expressed by Escherichia coli it is stated that Prevagen is safe and that:
“Apoaequorin is easily digested by pepsin”, a common protein-digesting enzyme.
Humans pepsin too.
Does this mean we digest apoaequorin and it does not make into the body – and past the blood brain barrier? If it doesn't get into the brain, I dont see how it could work?
I'd be interested in seeing research proving apoaequorin can make it into the body -and into the brain undigested. This is the issue at the heart of the class action lawsuit discussed above.
Where To Buy Prevagen
Prevagen is very popular. It can be purchased stores like Wallgreens, Bed Bath and Beyond, CVS, RiteAid, Target, Walmart, Harris Teeter, Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, Wegmans, ShopKo and Costco. It can also be found online too
Price varies. I have seen it for between $30-$60 a bottle.
How Long Until It Works?
If Prevagen works, the research says it might take 3 months (90 days) before people notice any difference. Any effects would likely also depend on the type of memory problems one had as well as how bad the memory impairment was.
It's worth pointing out the supplement comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. So, if you did take it for 90 days, you could only get a refund on the last bottle you purchased.
Prevagen Side Effects
The Prevagen safety study has noted apoaequorin appears to be safe (in rats) at even very large dosages for up to 3 months. While I think the supplement is probably safe in healthy people, here are some things to consider:
- Stop taking Prevagen at least 2 weeks before surgery
- Speak to your doctor and pharmacist if you are pregnant/breastfeeding
- Speak to your doctor and pharmacist if you take any prescription medicine
- Speak to your doctor and pharmacist if you take any medicine for memory or dementia
In the comments below, some have reported they had to increase the Prevagen dosage to keep it working. I cannot find any clinical proof the dosage would need to be increased.
One person reported slurring words and feeling light headed and not aware of surroundings.
Can Prevagen cause osteoporosis? This was a question raised in the comments section. Since the supplement is supposed to remove calcium from the brain, might it also remove calcium from the bones and contribute to osteoporosis?
I doubt if this would occur. But no research has measured bone mass after taking this supplement for years. Research also still needs to prove Prevagen removes calcium from the brains of humans.
Prevagen Pro & Con
To better help people sort this supplement out, here's a quick run down of what I liked and didn't like. Take this for what it's worth.
|What's Good||What's Not So Good|
|Website shows studies||Studies may have issues|
|Company funds research on their product||Medication interactions need more study|
|Only 1 active ingredient||Lack of non-company sponsored research|
|Appears safe. No side effects reported in human studies||Company has had FDA and FTC run-ins|
|Might help people who have no memory problems||Does it help people with dementia etc? More research needed|
|BBB Accredited business since 2012|
Does Prevagen Work?
Despite the studies, I’m not convinced yet. The company-sponsored research could be better in my opinion. I'd like to see research proving Prevagen can cross the blood brain barrier and improve memory in people with memory problems. If you try it let me know happens.