With the aging of America and baby boomers entering into retirement age in large numbers, concerns surrounding the risk of experiencing a reduction in cognitive sharpness or worse, memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or related disorders, have become increasingly important to many aging individuals. This fact has not escaped those out there who are looking to cash in on the fears and insecurities of this potentially vulnerable population through the sale of a wide array of purported “memory-enhancing” products. However, buyers beware.
There are many advertisements in the media extoling the positive benefits of a variety of substances professing a potential for cognitive enhancement and/or treatment of memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease. However, what empirical evidence do they provide and is it trustworthy? Do the substances in question meet the rigors established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to warrant the claim they are making? Have a sufficient number of well-controlled Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials been conducted that have demonstrated a significant and replicable enhancement of cognitive functioning or amelioration of cognitive deficits across a sufficient number of patients?
For many of the products advertised on TV, radio and magazines, the claims of effectiveness are substantiated by testimonials from people who claim to have used the treatment and derived benefit, coupled by endorsements from one or more medical professional (frequently the inventor of the product) who has been treating his/her clients with the substance and seen first hand the positive benefits of taking the substance in question. These kinds of claims and testimonials should be viewed with skepticism; if they cannot be backed up by data from a sufficient number of well designed and (placebo) controlled clinical trials.
It should be kept in mind that there are actually only a small handful of drugs that have been shown to reliably provide a significant enhancement of memory in Alzheimer’s patients which have gone on to be approved by the FDA. There is anecdotal evidence from time to time of some substances possibly enhancing cognitive performance, but the evidence is generally weak and the data limited in both scope and scientific rigor. Even the drugs that have been approved generally only provide a small improvement in cognitive performance, and what improvement the drugs do provide tends to be short lived as the disease continues ravage the brain. As such, claims of dramatic improvements or reversals of memory loss should be viewed with extreme caution.
Drug companies and the medical research community continue to work tirelessly to identify new and more effective drugs to treat the cognitive impairments exhibited by those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Speak to your health care provider about what is medically available and accepted to treat memory loss. Another avenue to consider is participating in one of the many legitimate ongoing Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials currently being conducted throughout the United States. If you happen to live in the New York Metropolitan Area, for example, you can search the web using the keywords Memory Loss Research Studies New York City to find a site near you. You can even further refine your search by specifying a specific borough within the city.
Remember, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that damages and eventually destroys brain cells and the connections between them. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Once it manifests itself, there is no known way to stop what it will do to the brain. The drugs available can only provide limited, “symptomatic” relief from the resulting memory loss. It is important, therefore, to seek out professional help and guidance as early as possible in order to determine what is actually causing your difficulties and the best course of treatment to undertake. Don’t wait too long though. As the disease continues, brain cells are continuing to malfunction and die making it more and more difficult for the drugs that may work to provide a significant benefit.