“Prevagen Improves Memory.” those are the words on website of Prevagen, called the #1 selling memory supplement in drug stores.” Odds are you have seen commercials for this jelly fish memory supplement. The product website claims the supplement is “clinically shown to help with mild memory problems associated with aging.” Those are pretty bold statements and so I got interested. Does Prevagen really work? The best way to review Prevagen is to look at the research. What does the memory research say? Can Prevagen help dementia and Alzheimers? Keep reading and lets see what we can discover.
What Is Prevagen?
Prevagen (pronounced “prev-uh-gen) is a brain health and memory supplement sold online and at various neighborhood pharmacies like CVS and Walgreen's. The product website states that “Prevagen has been clinically tested and shown to improve mild memory problems that occur in aging.” I’ll discuss the research below.
Prevegan contains an ingredient that is not in other memory supplements, previously reviewed such as:
See those reviews for additional information on those products.
What are the ingredients in Prevagen? Fortunately, for review purposes, this memory supplement has only one main, active ingredient which is an protein from jelly fish called apoaequorin (pronounced apo-a-kwar-in). From what I was able to determine, apoaequorin is said to work by reducing excess calcium levels in the brain.
Too much calcium in the brain seems to impact how well the brain functions. The product also contains vitamin D as well (vitamin D3)
By reducing calcium levels in the brain, apoaequorin is said to help improve short term memory problems.
What are other the ingredients in Prevagen? The Prevagen bottle also indicates the following other ingredients:
- White rice flower
- Magnesium stearate
- Acetic acid
- Disodium EDTA
These other ingredients play no role in how Prevagen works.
The product website (Prevagen.com ) lists clinical studies on Prevagen. You can see the studies on the product website: Prevagen.com/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.
I believe this is the study referenced in the Prevagen TV commercial. As you watch the TV commercial, notice at the bottom of your screen it says “In a computer assessed, double blind, placebo controlled study, Prevagen improved recall tasks in subjects.”
- 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.
Update: The study has been published. It is referred to as The “Madison Memory Study” (because it took place in Madison WI) and was published in 2016. The title of the study is Effects of a Supplement Containing Apoaequorin on Verbal Learning in Older Adults in the Community and was published in the journal, Advances in Mind Body Medicine.
Company sponsored investigation of 218 men and women 40-91 years of age, given either 10 mg of apoaequorin (the active ingredient in Prevagen) or a placebo for 90 days. This was a randomized, double blinded study.
At the end of the study, researchers noted that 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 those who did not have significant memory problems.
In those who did have significant memory problems, it did not work.
Problems With The Study
I noticed these potential issues with the Madison Memory Study.
- The groups did not contain the same number of people. The apoaequorin (Prevagen) had more people than the control group did.
- The prevagen group had more men and women than the placebo group did.
- The duration of this study was 3 months, but the paper that appears on the Prevagen website give the impression the study lasted 2 years (December 3 2009 to April 13 2011). I'm unsure of this dependency.
Also, all the researchers in this study work for the company that 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).
This study is titled The Impact of Prevagen on Memory. Here is a 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 that both the people and researchers knew who was getting Prevagen. In theory, this might influence the outcomes of the study. This potability reduces the significance of study in my opinion.
This study is titled Impact of Prevagen on Sleep Quality. Here is 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 was an open label study, as with study #2, might reduce the significance of the results.
Does Prevagen Improve Blood Flow?
Some memory supplements might contain ingredients (like ginkgo, for example) in the hopes that they can improve blood flow to the brain. By giving the brain more blood (and oxygen) the hope is that this will improve memory.
The idea behind Prevagen 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 brain blood flow to the brain, I do not know. It would be an interesting study to do.
How Much Sodium is 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.
Is Apoaequorin Safe?
The product website has published, a peer reviewed study on the safety of apoaequorin. The study is titled Safety assessment of apoaequorin, a protein preparation: subchronic toxicity study in rats. This study noted that – in rats – even very large doses of apoaequorin did not appear to have any effects on the lab animals. That's good.
A 2014 study titled Safety assessment of the calcium-binding protein, apoaequorin, expressed by Escherichia coli noted that apoaequorin is not expected to cause allergic reactions. That's good.
The study notes that “Apoaequorin is easily digested by pepsin”, a common protein-digesting enzyme.
Is the Apoaequorin Natural?
Prevagen states on their website that “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 that they make Apoaequorin 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
There is an extra strength version of this supplement. The extra strength version contains 20 mg of apoaequorin. Regular strength contains 10 mg. At the time this review was written, the research involved using 10 mg.
Would a Prevagen supplement containing 20 mg of apoaequorin work twice as well? I think we need research to better know for sure.
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.
Is Prevagen Better With Other Supplements?
Would someone get a bigger memory boosting effect if they combined Prevagen with other memory enhancing supplements (huperzine, ginkgo, etc.)? I'm not aware of any studies that combined Prevagen with other supplements touted to improve memory – or other dietary supplements in general.
For those curious if Prevagen is right for them, it's best to discuss this with a doctor/pharmacist and that is especially true for those who take prescription medications.
Prevagen vs. Nerium EHT
Nerium has a memory supplement called Nerium EHT. 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.
Prevagen vs. Focus Factor
Focus Factor is another very popular memory supplement. It has very different ingredients than Prevagen. As far as I can tell, there are no clinical trials that compare Focus Factor to Prevagen to see which is better. For those searching for answers, the best advice I can give is ask your pharmacist about Focus Factor and whether it might be right for you. Also consider medications you may be taking too.
What's Good/ Not So Good?
To better help people sort this supplement out, here's a quick run down of what I liked and didn't like about Prevagen. 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|
Who Makes Prevagen?
Quincy BioScience is the company listed that makes Prevagen. Their website is Quincybioscience.com. The address they list for the company 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…”
Is where Prevagen is made?
Regardless, Quincy BioScience is a Better Business Accredited company. The BBB gave the company a rating of “A+” at the time this review was created. Sugar River Supplements had an “A” rating with the BBB. Because ratings change from time to time, see the BBB files for updates and more information.
How To Contact Prevegan
On Prevagen.com they list a company contact number of 888-565-5385. Another contact number for Quincy BioScience is 608- 827-8000.
Prevagen And The FDA
On 10/16/12 the FDA issued a warning letter to Quincy Bioscience. (click the link to read the letter). The FDA maintains that since apoaequorin is created synthetically, it should be classified as a drug rather than a dietary supplement.
The warning letter also mentions reports of side effects from Prevagen. Read the warning letter and see the side effects section below for more information.
For further research, see these other resources which I located during my review:
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, which you can read here, 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.”
The makers of Prevagen disagree with this and say that this does not happen. I'll update this post as I become aware of how this turns out.
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 that Prevagen worked as advertised. Here is a summary 2017 FTC lawsuit.
Prevagen And Alzheimer’s
I am not aware of any evidence that Prevagen or apoaequorin improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. It may or may not. I could not find any proof either way. In the 2016 study summarized above, apoaequorin only appeared to help those who had no memory problems or mild impairment.
Prevagen And Concussions
Athletes, such as those who play football, soccer, boxers etc., may suffer memory issues resulting from repeated trauma to the head. Because of this, some may wonder if Prevagen can help reduce memory impairment that might result from frequent concussions. I was unable to locate any research on Prevagen helping memory issues resulting from traumatic brain injury. So, maybe it does or doesn't. I can't say either way.
Also see my review of Nerium EHT for more insights on this.
Prevagen And Dogs?
One study, titled, A novel mechanism for cognitive enhancement in aged dogs with the use of a calcium-buffering protein, noted that apoaequorin may help older beagles with memory and learning. More studies need to confirm this.
Can We Absorb It?
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.
But, we make pepsin too. Might this mean we would digest apoaequorin before it can get into the body? I'm not sure. I'd be interested in seeing research noting apoaequorin can make it into the body unscathed.
How Long Until It Works?
If the product works, the research says it might take 3 months (90 days) before people noticed the effects. Any effects would likely also depend on the type of memory issues one had as well as how bad the memory impairment was. Generally, though, their research says 90 days is all that should be needed.
It's worth pointing out that Prevagen comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. So, if one did take it for 90 days, they could only get a refund on the last bottle they bought.
Prevagen Side Effects
The Prevagen safety study has noted that apoaequorin – the active ingredient in Prevagen – appears to be safe (in rats) at even very large dosages for up to 3 months. That said, the 2012 FDA warning letter makes reference to about 1000 adverse events (side effects) and complaints reported by people. See the FDA letter for more on this.
None of the clinical studies report serious side effects.
Regardless of all of this, everybody is different and because people who have memory issues may have other health problems or are taking medications, I think it wise to speak to your doctor before taking this supplement.
Does Prevagen Work?
Despite the studies, I’m not convinced yet. Of the memory studies listed above, only 1 is published in a medical journal. That study appears to show Prevagen might work best in those with no memory issues or mild memory problems. I'm intrigued by what I've seen and I'm looking forward to more published studies on Prevagen.
Here is Prevagen on Amazonif you want to learn more.