Update 2/19/20. “Prevagen Improves Memory.” That's the bold statement for this dietary supplement. You have probably seen commercials for this jellyfish memory supplement and wondered if it really worked or whether it was a scam? In this Prevagen review, you'll learn the results of the clinical trials so you can understand them better. You'll learn the pros and cons of this supplement too. Does it have any side effects? That will be discussed too. Let's see what the research says.
Other Memory Supplement Reviews
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 local stores like CVS, Walmart, and others. Supplements that are supposed to improve memory and focus are called nootropics.
You've likely seen the TV commercials for this supplement:
This supplement contains an ingredient from jellyfish, called apoaequorin which is not in other memory products, such as:
See those reviews for additional information on those supplements.
Prevagen has just 1 main ingredient. It's a protein from jellyfish 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, by reducing calcium build up in brain cells, this might improve memory. That's the idea anyway.
The supplement also contains vitamin D as well.
The supplement also has these other ingredients too:
- White rice flour
- 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. You can see the studies on the product website: Prevagen.com/Research. Here is a summary of those studies along with my opinions:
Madison Memory Study
The Madison Memory Study is also titled: Effects of the Calcium Binding Protein Apoaequorin on Memory and Cognitive Function in Older Adults. It was published here under a different title. Regardless, here's a summary of the Madison Memory Study.
- Subjects: 218 people age 40-91 years of age.
- For 90 days people were randomly given 10 mg of Apoaequorin (the key ingredient in Prevagen) or a placebo.
Those taking apoaequorin improved verbal learning and recall ability by about 15%. Sounds good, but, this 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.
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.
- They did not measure calcium levels before/after treatment.
- The study lasted 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 ).
Here is a breakdown of the other studies listed for this supplement
Safety Study 1
This is a lab rat study showing Apoaequorin is safe. The study was 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.
In the past, the supplement website had listed other research. Here is a summary:
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 the supplement. 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 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.
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. 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 jellyfish. This means no jellyfish are involved or harmed from the production of Prevegan. That’s good.
Extra Strength Prevagen
Does Extra Strength Prevagen work better than regular strength? 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 contains 10 mg of apoaequorin. There is also an extra-strength chewable version (not depicted in the 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.
Prevagen vs. The Competition
Lets now take a quick look at how this product compares to other memory supplements.
Prevagen vs. Nerium (Neora) EHT
Nerium EHT is a supplement from the Nerium company (that company is now called Neora). 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 a 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 exercise? 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 deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit 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 its 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 that 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 seen when scanning various websites are as follows:
- The cost (about $2 per pill)
- Claims that prey on peoples fears
- Complaints about reoccurring charges
- Side effects
- Complaints it did not work
On the flip-side, other online testimonials 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:
On 10/16/12 the FDA issued a warning letter to Quincy Bioscience. The FDA maintained that because apoaequorin is created synthetically, it should be classified as a drug rather than a dietary supplement. They also cited 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 lost the case.
In 2017, the FTC alleged Quincy Bioscience 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 Jellyfish the New Brain Food?
- Memory Boosting Supplement: No Evidence FTC Says
Can Prevagen Help Alzheimer’s?
There is no evidence the supplement or its key ingredient (apoaequorin) improves Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. No proof, either way, could be located. In the Madison Memory Study summarized above, apoaequorin only seemed to help those who had no memory problems or mild impairment.
Can Prevagen Help Concussions?
Currently, there is no evidence the supplement helps the brain heal faster from traumatic brain injury.
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. More studies need to be conducted to confirm this.
Can We Absorb Prevagen?
In the Safety study mentioned above, it was stated that Prevagen is safe and that:“Apoaequorin is easily digested by pepsin”, a common protein-digesting enzyme.
Does this mean we digest Prevagen and it does not make into the body – and brain? More research needs to be conducted to determin if the key ingredient in the supplement can enter the blood and make it into the brain.
Where To Buy Prevagen
This supplement 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.
How Much Does It Cost?
Price varies. I have seen it for between $30-$60 a bottle.
How Long Until It Works?
If the supplement works, the research says it might take 3 months before people notice a 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 safety study has noted apoaequorin appears to be safe (in rats) at even very large dosages for up to 3 months. While the supplement is probably safe in healthy people, here are some things to consider This list is not complete:
- Start with less than recommended for the first week to see how you respond
- 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 testimonials below, some have reported they had to increase the Prevagen dosage because it stopped working.
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 below. Since the supplement is supposed to remove calcium from the brain, would Prevangen also remove calcium from the bones and cause osteoporosis? While its doubtful, 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 rundown 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 yet convinced. The 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.