What do you know about calcium? If you’re like most people, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is bone health. And while that is certainly true, recent research demonstrates that calcium ions are also important in the brain. However, with neurons, it’s not a problem of too little calcium.
Neural signaling that underlies memory is dependent on calcium. When glutamate (a excitatory neurotransmitter) binds to specialized receptors on neurons, channels open and allow calcium to enter, which turns on signaling cascades that lead to the formation and maintenance of memory. Unfortunately, too much calcium is toxic to cells and leads to the initiation of apoptosis, which is a type of cellular suicide.
Based on this knowledge, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a supplement that is designed to combat dangerous levels of calcium in neurons using a unique jellyfish protein called aqoaequorin.
How Does Prevagen Work?
Apoaequorin is a small, calcium-binding protein isolated from a species of jellyfish that lives in Washington’s Puget Sound. We have our own versions of calcium-binding proteins, but they decrease as we age. This leads to increased intracellular calcium. As mentioned above, this can interfere with neuronal function and may even be neurotoxic.
The version of apoaequorin in the Aequorea victoria jellyfish is nearly identical to the proteins encoded in our genome. The makers of Prevagen claim that taking an apoaequorin supplement protects neurons from calcium-induced toxicity.
They performed studies on cell cultures to demonstrate that Prevagen prevented cell death during calcium overload. Although these experiments are striking, it is not completely clear whether the apoaequorin in the oral supplement actually makes it into the brain.
The makers of Prevagen claim that regular use of their supplement will protect memories, help you remember more, and promote greater focus and clearer thinking. The underlying reason given for all these benefits is decreased neuronal death.
Although some question the usefulness of an oral supplement, Quincy Bioscience, the company that makes Prevagen, has conducted double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in 40-90 year old subjects. They claim that participants who had previously reported experiencing memory problems showed significant improvements in learning, short-term memory, and word recall following a three-month, once-a-day Prevagen (10 mg) regimen. It is important to note that these results were not published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. They are, however, available as a PDF on the Prevagen website.
Prevagen was voted the #1 Brain Health Supplement in the 2011 Vity Awards, which are sponsored by Vitamin Retailer magazine. This award is based on U.S. health food store retailers’ feedback. Reviews posted online by actual customers seem to be mixed.
Glen von Skal (G. Skal “rpcv”) wrote the following amazon.com review on 5/10/2010:
I originally purchased prevagen for memory issues. I have used it for about 40 days or so and my memory might have improved marginally. What I have noticed is that the frequency of my migraine headaches and intensity has dropped by about 50%. I also happen to feel more at easy, more relaxed. Is it due to Prevagen? Not sure, but it certainly coincides with the time frame I have been taking it.
Heather Fleming hung in there and noticed a difference after 3 months. She described her experience in a 4/13/2011 amazon.com review:
I have taken Prevagen for 4 months now. At first I was skeptical because nothing seemed to change. However by the third month, not only did I begin to remember and use words I haven’t used in years, but now I can multi-task again too (without distraction)…….like I use to in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. I find if I decide to skip a day or two (now) without taking them, I notice a set-back in the clarity of my everyday thinking, and in the amount of work I can accomplish. I am back online purchasing and reviewing stocks in the stock market, and making great judgment calls once again (because that deeper thought process is back). Don’t give up after a month or two. It takes a while to rebuild and replace the damaged cells in your brain and to get the synapse firing at a quicker pace once again. It helps in more ways than just memory!
Neutral or negative
Marilyn Inturias actually experienced increased headaches while taking Prevagen, and wrote about it on amazon.com on 7/1/2010:
I really don’t know what to say, I’ve been taking this for about 30 days now and I haven’t noticed a difference in my memory etc… in fact the only change in me was headaches, every night exactly 8 hours after taking it. I quit taking it and the headaches ceased! Maybe it’s a coincidence but the price was a lot to get headaches!! Jeesh!
Craig Sandager complained about the cost on amazon.com on 7/31/2009:
This product is way way to expensive. Try getting down around $20.00/mo. and you might actually sell a few bottles, but of course the manufacturer probably demands a 100% profit so could you take a 5% profit and sell it for $21.00. Seriously, I have used this product and the bang is simply not as big as the buck.
Prevagen Dosage & Directions
A bottle of Prevagen contains 30 capsules (10 mg each) and is enough for a month. There is also a Prevagen Pro formulation available that has four times the amount of apoaequorin (40 mg). The makers of Prevagen recommend taking 1 capsule per day in the morning, with or without food.
In addition to the active ingredient (apoaequorin), the capsules contain white rice flour, sodium chloride (salt), and magnesium stearate. They are free of gluten, yeast, dairy products, corn, sugar, artificial coloring, preservatives, and flavoring. They are also made in the U.S.A.
Prevagen Side Effects
There is little discussion of side effects on the company’s website, but the most commonly reported complaint in user forums and reviews is headache. Others include dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, and even increased libido. Toxicity studies showed Prevagen to be safe, and no serious adverse effects have been reported in humans.
Prevagen is available at Walgreens and Rite Aid, as well as many health food and vitamin stores. It can also be purchased through the company’s website. A one-month supply is $59.95 (+ $5.95 shipping). The buy 2 get 1 free deal gets your 3 boxes for $119.90 (+ $9.95 shipping). You can also choose to buy 4 and get 2 free for $239.80 (+ $9.95 shipping), but aside from a slight discount on shipping, it’s the same price as buy 2 get 1 free. A one-year supply costs $479.60 (+ $9.95 shipping). Finally, Prevagen offers a “Preferred Customer Plan” where they will ship you a bottle every month for $15.00 off the single-bottle cost ($44.95 + $5.95 shipping every month). Many websites offer cheaper prices than those listed on the Prevagen website.
The professional formulation is considerably more expensive. A single bottle is $89.95, and the discounts for multiple bottles are not as high. If you buy 2 you get 50% off the third bottle ($224. 85 for 3 bottles). Four bottles can be purchased for $269.85.
So, the cost of taking Prevagen is between $2-3/day depending on the formulation you choose.
The company offers a 100% money back guarantee when you purchase through them. If you are not satisfied with the performance of the product, you can return it within 30 days for a full refund (not including shipping and processing).