People with chronic pain often complain of difficulty with memory and cognition.
Chronic pain, sleep deprivation, depression, medication side effects, and a host of other reasons often effect cognition in chronic pain patients.
There are many over the counter supplements that claim to improve cognition. Prevagen is a popularly advertised supplement that claims to do this but, does Prevagen really work?
This article will try to answer that question by explaining what it is, how it is theorized to work, in what conditions it may be used for, side effects, and how it is dosed. I think you will find the information useful in order that you can make an informed decision as to whether Prevagen is right for you.
What Is Prevagen?
Prevagen is the trade name for a nootropic supplement (supplements that can effect higher order mental function) that is commonly seen advertised in the media. The active ingredient in it is called apoaequorin.
The substance was originally discovered in a species of jellyfish.
When combined with calcium it results in a chemical luminescence emitted by the jellyfish (the production of blue light). Researchers later connected the protein with brain health.
Just how that connection was discovered I have been unable to elucidate in the research I did for this article.
How Does It Work Chemically?
There is a “natural” and “unnatural” loss of brain cells (called neurons) with aging. In the “natural” loss of neurons there is the death of thousands of neurons each day by a calcium mediated mechanism.
It would appear that excess calcium inside the neuron has a destructive influence. The brain “cleans itself up” or “prunes itself” by this mechanism.
Furthermore, a reduction of calcium in the chemically vital area of the neuron called the synapse (the space between two connected neurons) also results in a reduction of nerve function.
So, with age, there is a deterioration of structure and function of the brain mediated by calcium. It also stands to reason that the entire brain does not deteriorate uniformly.
Certain areas (such as the Hippocampus which is involved with memory) deteriorate more rapidly than other areas of the brain.
The “unnatural” mechanisms for neuron death (such as in Alzheimer’s disease) are beyond the scope of this article and will not be discussed at this time.
The proposed mechanism for how Prevagen works is by stabilizing the calcium of the neuron. The levels inside would be reduced and the synaptic levels would be increased.
As the brain possesses a “barrier” to large molecules (called the “blood-brain barrier”), supplementation with Prevagen does not result in immediate improvement in function.
Supplementation must continue for at least 4 weeks before actual improvement in memory is observed.
What Specific Brain Functions Is Prevagen Useful For?
The manufacturers of Prevagen (Quincey Bioscience) claim that it has the following effects:
- Improves Word Recall
- Improves Learning
- Reduces Forgetfulness
- Improves Executive Function (problem solving and reasoning)
- Improves Sleep
Quincey Bioscience has several “studies” that they have performed to make these claims. Unfortunately, the studies were never published in the usual “peer reviewed” format that new advances in science are usually evaluated in.
When a new treatment is developed, the most credible way to evaluate it is to have others review the data and “weigh in” with their opinions. This is the “peer review” process.
Even though the process is not perfect, it is the best way to objectively evaluate a new therapy prior to any claims being made. Quincey Bioscience has not had Prevagen peer reviewed.
What Are The Side Effects That Are Possible With Prevagen?
The Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology published an article in 2013 on the toxic effects of high doses of apoaequorin force fed to rats. With doses many times higher than is offered in the supplement Prevagen, the rats did not develop any major side effects.
Furthermore, no rats died from these huge doses.
This report was in response to the side effects that thousands of people have reported using Prevagen. Nausea, seizures, vomiting, dizziness, chest pain, stroke, and worsening of Multiple Sclerosis symptoms have been reported.
There are even more symptoms that people claim to have experienced taking Prevagen.
It must be remembered that the occurrence of a symptom with the use of any substance does not necessarily prove that the substance caused it. It shows association but not necessarily causation.
The lay public is often unaware of this important distinction.
However, an association does not exclude that some of the symptoms could have been caused by thePrevagen. It seems that more studies are needed to “flush out” the truth in this case.
You should also know that Quincey Bioscience has been notified by the Food and Drug Administration that they may be in violation of supplement guidelines. I have included a link for you of the actual communication with the FDA October 16, 2012:
How Is Prevagen Dosed?
Prevagen is commercially available without a prescription being needed. It is available in 10 mg, 20 mg, and 40 mg doses.
Prevagen is taken once a day for at least 30 days before a positive effect can be expected.
Prevagen is not cheap.
The product itself has none of the usual allergic inducing additives (gluten, peanuts, etc). It is taken by mouth on an empty stomach before the first meal of the day.
There is hope…
I have reviewed some of the “science” behind Prevagen, how it works, what it can be used for, side effects, and dosing.
Though Prevagen seems safe enough, I cannot give a recommendation to use the supplement as more information is needed on its effectiveness and side effects.
This product seems to be one of the many supplements foisted on the American people by slick marketing with a minimum of scientifically provable claims.
You should know that the whole field of “nootropics” is a very intense area of scientific investigation at the present time. The field of Neuroscience is looking for the “magic bullet” that will enhance your memory and intellect.
I believe it is only a matter of time until a real substance is identified and marketed to the American public.
USE OF PREVAGEN SHOULD BE UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF YOUR PRIMARY CARE PRACTITIONER. THIS POSTING IS NOT TO BE CONSIDERED MEDICAL ADVICE AND IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.
I hope you have found this brief discussion of Prevagen useful. If you have any questions please comment.
Wishing you much joy and healing.