Prevagen is a memory supplement derived from jelly fish that, according to its label, is “clinically shown to help with mild memory problems associated with aging.” The bottle I saw also makes the bold statement that Prevagen “Improves Memory.” Those statements, along with its TV commercial, got me interested and so I decided to review the research on Prevagen to find out more. If you were as curious as I was, keep reading and lets see what we can discover.
What Is Prevagen?
Prevagen (pronounced “prev-uh-gen) is a brain health and memory supplement sold online and at various neighborhood pharmacies. The product website states that “Prevagen has been clinically tested and shown to improve mild memory problems that occur in aging.” I’ll discuss the research below.
Prevegan contains an ingredient that is not in other memory supplements, previously reviewed here such as:
See those reviews for additional information on those products.
This memory supplement has one main, active ingredient which is an protein from jelly fish called apoaequorin (pronounced apo-a-kwar-in). From what I was able to determine, apoaequorin reduces excess calcium levels in the brain. Too much calcium in the brain seems to impact how well the brain functions.
By reducing calcium levels in the brain, apoaequorin is said to help improve short term memory problems.
The Prevagen bottle I saw also indicates the following other ingredients:
- White rice flower
- Magnesium stearate
- Acetic acid
- Disodium EDTA
My guess is these other ingredients play no role in how Prevagen works.
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.
The product website lists 3 clinical studies on Prevagen. You can see the studies on the product website: Prevagen.com/Research.
Here is a summary of those studies along with my thoughts:
Study 1 is titled: Effects of the Calcium Binding Protein Apoaequorin on Memory and Cognitive Function in Older Adults.
I believe this is the study referenced in the Prevagen TV commercial. As you watch the TV commercial, notice at the bottom of your screen it says “In a computer assessed, double blind, placebo controlled study, Prevagen improved recall tasks in subjects.”
- Subjects: 218 people age 40-91 years of age.
- For 90 days people were randomly given 10 mg of Apoaequorin or a placebo.
- Results: Those getting apoaequorin performed better on various memory and learning tests than those getting the placebo.
My thoughts: This does not appear to be a peer reviewed study.
This is a interesting study and I was intrigued by what I read. I really hope it gets submitted for peer review.
Update: The study has been published. The “Madison Memory Study” (named because it took place in Madison WI) was released in 2016. The title of the study is Effects of a Supplement Containing Apoaequorin on Verbal Learning in Older Adults in the Community and was published in the journal, Advances in Mind Body Medicine.
The full study can be read on the Product website. This study lasted 3 months and involved 218 men and women between the ages of 40 and 91 years of age. This was a randomized, double blinded study.
People were given either 10 mg of apoaequorin (the active ingredient in Prevagen) or a placebo for 90 days. At the end of the study, researchers noted that apoaequorin significantly improved verbal learning and recall compared to the placebo.
More specifically, those getting apoaequorin showed an 11.9% improvement while those getting the placebo showed only a 2.3%.
But, this improvement in verbal learning was only seen in those who had no memory problems or mild memory problems.
In other words, according to this study, apoaequorin (Prevagen) only worked in those who did not have significant memory problems.
In those who did have significant memory problems, it did not work.
This study has also critiqued in the September 2015 issue of Pharmacy Today (click the link to download the pdf of the critique).
Study 2. This study is titled The Impact of Prevagen on Memory. Here is a 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 that the people and researchers both knew who was getting Prevagen. This might influence the outcomes of the study. This reduces the significance of this study in my opinion.
Study 3. This study is titled Impact of Prevagen on Sleep Quality. Here is 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 was an open label study, as with study #2, might reduce the significance of the results.
Does Prevagen Help Blood Flow?
Some memory supplements might contain ingredients (like ginkgo, for example) in the hopes that they can improve blood flow to the brain. By giving the brain more blood (and oxygen) the hope is that this will improve memory.
The idea behind Prevagen is not to improve blood flow to the brain, but rather to reduce the build up of excess calcium inside brain cells. Whether or not this improves brain blood flow, I do not know. It would be an interesting study to do.
Is Apoaequorin Safe?
The product website has published, a peer reviewed study on the safety of apoaequorin. The study is titled Safety assessment of apoaequorin, a protein preparation: subchronic toxicity study in rats. This study noted that – in rats – even very large doses of apoaequorin did not appear to have any effects on the lab animals. That’s good.
A 2014 study titled Safety assessment of the calcium-binding protein, apoaequorin, expressed by Escherichia coli noted that apoaequorin is not expected to cause allergic reactions. That’s good.
The study notes that “Apoaequorin is easily digested by pepsin”, a common protein-digesting enzyme.
Is the Apoaequorin Natural?
Prevagen states on their website that “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 that they make Apoaequorin rather than extract it from jelly fish. This means no jelly fish are involved or harmed from the production of Prevegan. That’s good.
Extra Strength Prevagen
There is an extra strength version of this supplement. The extra strength version contains 20 mg of apoaequorin. Regular strength contains 10 mg. At the time this review was written, the research involved using 10 mg.
Would a Prevagen supplement containing 20 mg of apoaequorin work twice as well? I think we need research to better know for sure.
Can You Combine It With Other Memory Supplements?
Would someone get a bigger memory boosting effect if they combined Prevagen with other memory enhancing supplements (huperzine, ginkgo etc.)? I’m not aware of any studies that combined Prevagen with other supplements touted to improve memory. Given how little is known about these types of supplements, I would encourage people to discuss this with their doctor/pharmacist – especially those who take prescription medications.
Who Makes Prevagen?
Quincy BioScience is the company listed that makes Prevagen. Their website is Quincybioscience.com. The address they list for the company is 726 Heartland Trail, suite #300 Madison, WI 53717.
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…”
I could be wrong, but I wonder if this is where Prevagen is made?
Regardless, Quincy BioScience is a Better Business Accredited company. The BBB gave the company a rating of “A+” at the time this review was written. See the BBB file for updates and more information.
How To Contact Prevegan
On Prevagen.com they list a company contact number of 888-565-5385. Another contact number for Quincy BioScience is 608- 827-8000.
Prevagen And The FDA
On 10/16/12 the FDA issued a warning letter to Quincy Bioscience about Prevagen. (click the link to read the letter). The FDA maintains that since apoaequorin is created synthetically, it should be classified as a drug rather than a dietary supplement.
Other than this letter, I’m not aware of any other actions taken by the FDA.
The warning letter also mentions reports of side effects from Prevagen also. Read the warning letter and see the side effects section below for more information.
For further research, see these other resources which I located during my review:
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, whcih you can read here, 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.”
The makers of Prevagen disagree with this and say that this does not happen. I’ll update this post as I become aware of how this turns out.
Prevagen And Alzheimer’s
I am not aware of any evidence that Prevagen or apoaequorin improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. It may or may not. I could not find any proof either way. In the 2016 study summarized above, apoaequorin only appeared to help those who had no memory problems or mild impairment.
Prevagen And Concussions
Athletes may suffer memory issues resulting from repeated trauma to the head. Because of this, some may wonder if Prevagen is right for them. I was unable to locate any research on Prevagen helping memory issues resulting from traumatic brain injury. So, maybe it does or doesn’t. I can’t say either way.
Also see my review of Nerium EHT for more insights on this.
Prevagen And Dogs?
I am not aware of any clinical studies showering that Prevagen or apoaequorin improves memory or behavior in dogs or cats or any pets. I could not find any proof either way.
Can We Absorb Prevagen?
In the Safety assessment of the calcium-binding protein, apoaequorin, expressed by Escherichia coli it is stated that Prevagen is safe and that:
“Apoaequorin is easily digested by pepsin”, a common protein-digesting enzyme.
But, we make pepsin too. Might this mean we would digest apoaequorin before it can get into the body? I’d be interested in seeing research noting apoaequorin can make it into the body unscathed.
Prevagen Side Effects
The Prevagen safety study has noted that apoaequorin – the active ingredient in Prevagen – appears to be safe (in rats) at even very large dosages for up to 3 months. That said, the 2012 FDA warning letter makes reference to about 1000 adverse events (side effects) and complaints reported by people. See the FDA letter for more on this.
None of the Prevagen studies report serious side effects.
Regardless of all of this, everybody is different and because people who have memory issues may have other health problems or are taking medications, I think it wise to speak to your doctor before taking Prevagen.
Does Prevagen Work?
Despite the studies on the product, I’m not convinced yet. Of the memory studies listed above, only 1 is published. That study appears to show Prevagen might work best in those with no memory issues or mild memory problems. I’m looking forward to more published studies on Prevagen.
Here is Prevagen on Amazonif you want to learn more.