How’s your brain performing these days? Does your concentration plummet in the afternoon? Do you forget people’s names, birthdays and what you did last Tuesday? If so, you’re not alone.
A recent seven-year study of 2,000 people, published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, found that mental performance declines after the age of 27.(1) Even more worryingly is the explosion in dementia, which is predicted to claim the lives of a third of seniors.
Many of America’s baby boomers are leaving nothing to chance. They’re getting more exercise, eating cleaner and taking supplements that may help protect their brains from cognitive decay.
One of the most popular supplements for the brain is vinpocetine, found naturally in the leaf of the periwinkle plant.
There are over 600 scientific references on its benefits in the National Library of Medicine.(2) And a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that vinpocetine provided significant improvement in elderly patients suffering from cognitive decline.(3) However, it is not a miracle cure and further study is needed to confirm its benefits.
Dubbed ‘Viagra for the brain, vinpocetine has been taken safely as a dietary supplement since the 1980s. But that could soon be about to change.
The FDA has announced that it now believes vinpocetine is so potent that it was incorrectly classed as a supplement. It now believes it should be classed a ‘synthetic compound’ instead.
This means vinpocetine may have to be sold as a prescription drug and, no doubt, at a much higher price.
Can the ban be stopped?
The millions of baby boomers who rely on vinpocetine to keep their brain fit and healthy are outraged that it may soon be seized from their hands and passed to the drug companies to dispense as they see fit.
The most active critic of the ban is the Life Extension Foundation. It’s created a special website for members of the public to download a letter to send to the FDA and members of Congress to protest against the vinpocetine ban.(4)
The letter states that the proposed ban is an “unscientific and illegal attempt to remove an effective and safe dietary supplement from the market.”
It also states:
“The removal of vinpocetine will endanger the health of Americans who take this supplement daily to protect against neurodegeneration, If Americans are denied access to vinpocetine, healthcare costs will skyrocket as circulatory deficits to the brains of aging Americans will increase vascular and Alzheimer’s dementia risk.”(5)
Pharmacists join the protest
It’s not just the Life Extension Foundation challenging the FDA’s imminent ban. Pharmacists are also worried that a cost effective way of helping to prevent mental decline may soon be unavailable to America’s 76 million baby boomers.
This includes Mark Burger, a pharmacist from California, who’s sold vinpocetine for more than 12 years. In his letter to the FDA he wrote:
“There is no need to re-classify this compound. It serves no purpose and will have profound economic impact on those that manufacture the products, on pharmacies like ours and on patients who must seek prescription drugs to maintain the level of cognitive recall that they have enjoyed with vinpocetine.”(6)
Others have gone further and accused the FDA of implementing the ban at the behest of big pharma. They suspect that it’s little more than a cynical ploy to allow drug companies to take over the marketing of this hugely popular brain supplement and fill their coffers with the profits.
People campaigning against the FDA Ban
“I am [a] 69-year-old female and have been using this supplement for over 25 years as a preventative because of extensive stroke history in my family. Because my mother died of Alzheimer’s, it also gives me great peace of mind that I am doing what I can to keep my brain neurologically sound.” – California resident Beth Rees (7)
“Removing vinpocetine will likely cause skyrocketing prices for pharmaceutical substitutes and/or nursing home care,” – Florence Brunner of Eastport, Maine (7)
“Why would you want to ban something that older people like myself use to maintain our cognitive health? It sure makes me think that you people are on the side of the pharmaceutical companies.” – Sam Pinder (7)
“Please do not take this out of the public domain and hand it over to pharmaceutical companies who have profits, profits, profits on their mind. My mental decline has definitely [been] slowed down.” – Mark Harrison (7)
Five Supplements for the Mind
If the ban is enforced and vinpocetine is removed from the shelves, people may have to find a replacement. Five popular supplements people take for their mind are:
1.Gaba – A ‘downer’ neurotransmitter found to relieve anxiety and provide a calmness that helps to improve mental focus.
2. Huperzine A – A naturally occurring sesquiterpene alkaloid compound that may help to enhance learning and reduce age related memory impairment
3. Alpha GPC – A natural choline compound found in the brain that has shown some evidence of helping to relieve cognitive disfunction
4. L-Tyrosine – An amino acid that may improve mental alertness, performance and concentration
5. Bacopa Monnieri – Found in a creeping herb native to the wetlands of southern and Eastern India. It may help increase cerebral blood flow and cognitive function
None of these supplements are miracle cures for age-related mental decline, and further study is needed to confirm their benefits. The best way to look after the brain is daily exercise, to eat lots of fruit and vegetables and keeping the brain active. However, if vinpocetine is removed from the shelves, then these supplements might be replacements worth considering.
Disclaimer – Statements in this article have not been evaluated or approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Individual results vary and results discussed in these materials are not necessarily typical or average results. You should never make changes to your medication without speaking to your doctor. The information provided is not a replacement for professional medical advice.
4. http://www.capwiz.com/lef/issues/alert/?alertid=73977626&type=ML5. https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/blogs/insider-law/2016/11/consumers-urge-fda-to-keep-vinpocetine-on-market.aspx