We all have moments when we worry about our memories – "Why did I come into this room? Where are my keys?" While these moments are normal, many people want to do everything possible to improve or build up their memories before they get to the age where dementia becomes more common. Many supplements that you can pick up at any drugstore claim to benefit memory, but do they live up to the hype?
The results are inconclusive. Some say that ginkgo biloba, which has been used medicinally for thousands of years, shows some promising evidence of enhancing memory in healthy subjects. However, the side effects, while rare, can be severe: Some users have experienced severe internal bleeding [source: Mayo Clinic].
There have been many studies over the years linking ginkgo to memory, but one of the most famous investigations of the effects of ginkgo on aging-induced cerebral disorders was a study presented in the French medical journal La Presse Medicale in 1986. The experiment was designed to evaluate 166 geriatric patients in several categories, including short-term memory, anxiety, vivacity, disturbances in orientation, initiative, emotional stability, sociability, cooperation, appetite, personal care, sleep, vertigo, tinnitus and fatigue. The participants improved in every area after taking ginkgo for three months and continued to improve over time [source: NCBI]. However, a large-scale study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 did not find any evidence that ginkgo biloba could prevent memory loss or slow memory decline [source: Bauer].
Some claim that supplements like curcumin and vitamins C and E have antioxidant qualities that may help slow memory decline. Fish oil supplements (omega-3 fatty acids) are also billed as memory enhancers, along with huperzine A and various forms of B vitamins. However, just as with ginkgo biloba, there are no definitive studies proving that any of these can significantly help with memory loss [source: Brown].
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