Real Possibilities

June 11-17, 2018

Guarding your memory
Part II - What not to do


By Nan Selz
Executive Council, AARP Arkansas


Last month this column discussed the fact that there is no sure fix for memory loss, but it did review some lifestyle factors that can positively influence your ability to remember things. This month it will explore things that are rumored to help (or harm) your memory but don’t.


There is no proof that any vitamin or supplement enhances your memory. Rumors abound that vitamin E and omega-3 supplements from fish oil will improve your mind. Research has shown, however, that vitamin E neither prevents Alzheimer’s nor ameliorates the symptoms of people with this diagnosis, and omega-3 supplements have not been proven to impact brain function.


The herbal remedy ginseng is another product rumored to improve brainpower. But a 2010 study found no convincing evidence that it works. There are also a number of very good reasons NOT to take ginseng – it can interact negatively with drugs for diabetes and depression and with the blood thinner warfarin. Ginseng can also cause headaches and it can interfere with sleep and digestion.


Despite misleading claims by companies that sell them, brain games only improve your ability to do the games themselves. They have a limited impact on overall brain health. Taking a class, studying a new language or researching a new subject work just as well as the games that make false claims about their ability to “train your brain”.


Don’t worry about aluminum. Researchers in the 1970s and 1980’s found aluminum present in the neurons of people who had Alzheimer’s.  This finding caused a scare about using utensils and antiperspirants that contain aluminum and drinking out of aluminum cans. Aluminum is the third most common element in the earth’s crust and people are exposed to it in so many ways that the small amounts in antiperspirants, cans or cookware are unlikely to increase the risk of memory loss.


The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts working on people’s ability to think and reason as they age.  GCBH continues to study the brain and present new findings that will help zero in on what does and does not protect memory.


AARP is a member of GCBH and shares GCBH findings on its website ( where you can stay current on the latest research on guarding your memory.


  • Nan Selz
    Nan Selz