This article was triggered by the recent headline, “Inflammation in midlife tied to brain shrinkage later in life”   

Brain shrinkage means memory dysfunction as you age (there is only one organ in the human body where size matters – the hippocampus area of your brain). You’ve probably seen the ads: “You might take something for your heart (they flash an aspirin or a multivitamin bottle on the screen) or for your joints (up flashes a hand with a bottle of glucosamine), why not take something for your brain?”  

The ad asks the question as an alleged brain supplement they are trying to sell flashes across the screen. They even show a graph indicating to the unwary the supposed increase in memory or brain function from that supplement.   

The trick here the seller and ad marketer use is training effect. The supposed brain supplement was tested multiple times, and like the group that received no supplement, memory improved the more times they took the same test. The improvements were no different between the no supplement group and this wild jelly fish pill, according to the data. But the marketers have deceived the public – and made it “The bestselling supplement at Walgreen’s, etc.,” according to the ad.  

Selling you something that just is a wallet biopsy. Or maybe let’s be generous and say the reason the people put stuff like this on the shelves of Walmart, Walgreen’s and CVS, is maybe they do not know better. Those of us who care about the costs of health care, the costs of chronic disease on your well-being and the country’s medical costs should be thankful that at least we haven’t seen published studies that this “best-selling of the so-called brain enhancing supplements” sold at these stores does anything bad, other than keep you from spending your money on something that actually helps your brain.  

I write this to help keep your brain younger, and the country’s costs of brain dysfunction smaller.   

Here are three supplements for less than $1 per day, including two for less than a dime a day, that have solid data and mechanisms by which they work, and are likely to keep your brain young: half a multi-vitamin twice a day, a baby aspirin twice a day and a DHA-omega-3 900mg once a day.  

Brain dysfunction as you age is modifiable at least by decreasing aging of your arteries and by decreasing inflammation. Taking 900mg daily of DHA-omega-3, or getting it from 12 ounces of ocean trout or salmon, and an 81mg baby aspirin taken with a warm glass of water in the morning and night decrease inflammation in your brain.  

But for under 10 cents a day, you can make your brain substantially younger than those guys who flunked non-Advanced Placement science 101 and believe the ad. Before you do anything suggested in this column, check with your doctor.


Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. 

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