Supplements claiming to prevent dementia ‘lack evidence’

Research into some supplements has found no robust evidence linking ingredients to dementia prevention. Picture: John Devlin

Research into some supplements has found no robust evidence linking ingredients to dementia prevention. Picture: John Devlin

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Claims made by some supplements to promote brain health or prevent dementia are not backed up by scientific evidence, an investigation has revealed.

A panel of experts commissioned by consumer group Which? investigated the science behind a selection of supplements sold on the high-street and online and found “no robust evidence” linking ingredients such as Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B and D and fish oil to preventing or reducing the risk of dementia.

The group, which included including a dietitian, a GP and a professor of public health medicine, said that two of the claims made by the supplement manufacturers are not substantiated by the European Food Safety Authority – and branded them “potentially misleading”.

Alex Neill, Which? director of policy and campaigns, said: “People with dementia, or those with a friend or family member with the condition, will often be scared and worried. It’s unacceptable that these companies prey on people’s fears, making claims they simply can’t stack up.

“For people worried about dementia our advice is you don’t need to spend time and money on expensive supplements or products, like online tests or apps. There are many alternative sources of free, independent information and advice that can help you to understand your options and next steps.”

Which? also scrutinised the benefits of some dementia tests, including from free apps to an online test costing £1,275. It said its experts warn against using such screening tests to try and predict the likelihood of dementia.

It found the “Dementia Test” app failed to ask basic questions such as a person’s age and sex, which are the strongest risk factors for dementia.

“These tests can lead to many people being unduly worried about the chances of them developing dementia by creating ‘false positives’. Research shows that many people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment don’t go on to develop dementia at all,” said the report.

Efamol told Which? that it did not intend to mislead consumers while Brain-Smart said their product did not claim to prevent, cure or treat disease.

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