Those vitamins you’ve been taking to prevent dementia

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I saw this advertisement on the back of a magazine today, and was immediately angry about it.

“Call your grandkids by their right names. The first time,” it reads. This is not only false advertising, but it’s also pretty insulting. It makes it sound like you can control how your brain works. It sounds like they are pointing a finger at the person with cognitive loss saying, “You dummy! Get it together! Can’t you remember?”

Here’s the problem with this medication, and many like it: it isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration! What does that mean? Well, it essentially means that there’s, one, no guarantee that it works, and, two, it hasn’t been thoroughly studied. While it says, “Proven effective and safe in nine human clinical trials,” I would love to see these studies. And what is the “memory recall score” graph? What does that even mean? 

Even the medications that we do use with people who have dementia (Aricept, Namenda, Excelon) don’t work for everyone and only have a 6-12 month window of truly being effective.

The other part of this ad that I didn’t like was the line, “Stay Sharp. Stay You.” It implies that people with cognitive loss are no longer themselves, and this just isn’t the case.

My advice is this: be careful about what you put in your body, medication-wise. Over-the-counter medications, prescribed by your physician, can have serious side effects. We don’t really know that much about medications that aren’t regulated by the FDA, and this particular vitamin that they are advertising is one of them.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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