A “gold standard” clinical study on brain memory, concentration and focus presented today found a commercially available nutritional supplement significantly improved memory by a decade compared to placebo.

The patent-pending blend of nutrients—a number of acetylcholine enhancers such as DMAE, vinpocetine and phosphatidylserine—found that adults who took FocusFactor improved their memory, concentration and focus.

“This study was well done, clean, a pharmaceutical-quality clinical trial,” said lead researcher Gary Kay, PhD, a clinical neurophschologist and president of Cognitive Research Corp, at the Gerontological Society of America’s 64th Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston today. “The results are scientifically and clinically significant. The difference in memory test performance can be considered to reflect a 10-year cognitive age advantage.”

Acetylcholine enhancers inhibit acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that degrades neurotransmitters and decreases synaptic transmissions in the brain, according to product formulator Judi Quilici-Timmcke, PhD, who was not involved in the study or the product formulation. “The possibility of these acetylcholine enhancers increasing cognitive function would be the reason why a formulator would add them, although because of price point they are not often added at an effective dose.”

The FocusFactor formulation contains a range of B vitamins as well as other multivitamin-style ingredients, along with 692mg of a proprietary blend of DMAE, bacopa, phosphatidylserine, DHA, choline, grape seed extract, vinpocetine, huperzine-A, vanadium and others.

“We did not identify which of the ingredients was actually responsible for the effect,” said Kay.

Brain health study details

There were 96 subjects enrolled in the study between the ages of 18 and 65. The mean age of subjects who participated was 49.1 years. There were no demographic differences between subjects randomized to FocusFactor and those randomized to placebo. The study was conducted over a six-week period. Eighty-nine subjects completed the six-week study and were included in the data analyses.

The clinical study used the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), a standardized, widely used neuropsychological test and one of the most commonly used tests of memory in psychopharmacology research. The RAVLT was originally developed in the 1940s and has been shown to be useful in evaluating verbal learning and memory. The study also used CogScreen, a computer-administered neuropsychological test battery developed for the Federal Aviation Administration for evaluating the cognitive functioning of pilots. The test is used worldwide in pilot selection as well as by the United States military and in clinical research trials evaluating effects of treatments on cognitive functioning.  

“We have a significant effect on the primary endpoint, which is the total number of words recalled,” said Kay. “The placebo group scored in the 30 to 39-year-old age group, a score of 48.6. The FocusFactor group was comparable to the 20 to 29-year-old age group, a score of 52.2. That’s a 10-year difference. It’s outside the range of luck.”

The cognitive nutraceuticals category stands at $537 million and is expected to grow approximately 7 percent per year for the next three to five years, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

Sales of brain-health products are topping 12 percent, according to Kathy Lund, director of business development and marketing for AIDP, which distributes a new, magnesium-based cognitive health ingredient branded, Magtein.

Also in Boston, a Harvard University telephone survey of 2,678 adult Americans, French, Germans, Spaniards and Poles found that more respondents fear Alzheimer’s than heart disease, stroke or diabetes—only cancer is ahead.