How could I resist this tease? I’m the guy, after all, who needs to stir his little grey cells to recall the name of that beautiful shrub growing at the northeast corner of our house. Eureka, I’ve got it! – it’s called viburnum. I’ve always attributed my lapses in memory to the likelihood that my noodle is crammed to the utmost with 10 to the 10th to the 10th factoids ranging from the particulars of Addison’s disease to Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. If I keep all those things stored in my cranium, it’s difficult to cram any more in there.
So I found this hard to put down.
“UCLA neuroscientists develop incredible brain age-reversing breakthrough!
Top research shows this…
1-Hour “Brain Lift” Helps STOP Age-Related Memory Loss
Now YOU can use their same powerfully simple technique at home to help improve your memory by 700% in just 1 HOUR, plus so much more…”
Having checked up on a considerable number of promotions of this sort, I start out with a skeptical turn of mind. The notion of improving my memory by 700% in just one hour strikes me from the outset as a colossal exaggeration, even if there is some merit to whatever it is that these UCLA neuroscientists came up with. And let me say that the single disclaimer line that introduces the tease doesn’t do anything to make me more of a believer. Here’s the disclaimer:
“These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.”
Many people, including quite a few Gumshoe denizens, will take that disclaimer as basically meaningless, based on their firm conviction that the FDA is just a toady for the pharmaceutical industry rather than an honest government agency dedicated to making sure that there is legitimate evidence supporting the claims made by the makers of products that are meant to contribute to the health of our nation.
I note that one of the comments appended to a previous Doc Gumshoe posting asserted that pharmaceutical companies had to hand over to the FDA the sum of two billion dollars in order for the FDA to move forward with the approval of a candidate drug. This is simply not so. Here’s what the FDA says:
“For fiscal year 2018, drug application fees are: $2,421,495 per full application requiring clinical data, $1,210,748 per application not requiring clinical data or per supplement requiring clinical data.”
That’s million, not billion.
What particularly piqued my interest was the statement that the source of this miracle brain booster was UCLA neuroscientists. That assertion was repeated numerous times in the presentation, and it was not tempered in any way. Here’s a typical repetition:
“No—this easy, UCLA-patented “Brain Lift” technique can improve your memory by a whopping 700% just 1 HOUR from now. …
“It took the most respected neuroscientists, at the most prestigious memory lab in the world — UCLA’s neurology research center— and a decade of trial and error to develop.
And ever since—in study after study—this brain lift technique has shown miraculous memory-boosting results.
Like in a groundbreaking 2014 study, where researchers put the brain lift breakthrough to the test on a group of seniors 60 and over.
The scientists separated the seniors into two groups—a test group that would get the brain lift—and a placebo group that wouldn’t.
Then, on that very first day… just 1 hour into the study…
The researchers ran a few tests and discovered something they never expected…
The men and women who got the brain lift were ALREADY IMPROVING AT A RAPID PACE…
In fact, their memory was working SIGNIFICANTLY better than it had just 60 minutes earlier…Are you getting our free Daily Update
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So much so that they had blown past the placebo group at a staggering clip…
Scoring a WHOPPING 700% BETTER ON MEMORY TESTS just 1 HOUR into the study.
But that wasn’t all the researchers saw in that first hour …
After the scientists pulled their jaws off the floor, they ran another test…
And discovered that the brain lift not only boosted memory and recall—it also improved how well these seniors were thinking.
Giving them a MEGAWATT SURGE IN BRAINPOWER and enhanced, LASER-LIKE FOCUS IN JUST 1 HOUR.”
So, what’s the brain lift? You have to persevere with the presentation for a while before you get even a hint. First, you have to listen to a recital of the terrible things that happen when your memory begins to get faulty. The spokesperson introduces herself and also brings her mother into the story. Of course, it’s her mother whose ability to remember things is getting more than a bit faulty. And we get to hear how immensely improved her mother’s memory becomes after the fabulous one-hour brain lift. Finally, we come back to the UCLA neurology department and learn that what they accomplished was improving the bio-availability of curcumin.
Curcumin! Curcumin, yet again! Curcumin is a yellow substance in the rhizomes of the turmeric plant, Curcuma longa. Those rhizomes, which are sort of root clumps like ginger, are cooked, dried, and used as spices in many Asian curries. Curcumin is also used in cosmetics mostly because of its color, and has recently become one of the darlings of the supplements industry and its spielers, several of whom have come to the attention of Doc Gumshoe, including the notorious Dr Al Sears.
Does curcumin itself have demonstrated health benefits? Yes, it does, but these are limited. The one medical use for curcumin for which there appears to be reliable evidence is osteoarthritis. A small randomized controlled study (53 subjects) compared a supplement containing curcumin plus glucosamine and chondroitin with placebo; both groups of subjects also received exercise therapy. No surprise, the patients taking the supplement had less pain than those on placebo. The glucosamine-chondroitin combination has been reported, in some cases, to provide relief of joint pain by, in effect, lubricating the joint.
Also, curcumin has been reported to have some anti-inflammatory effectiveness. As to the way curcumin exerts these anti-inflammatory properties, the landscape is shrouded in dense fog from which vague outlines of potential anti-inflammatory pathways may be tentatively inferred. There appears to be evidence, mostly in animals, that treatment with curcumin reduces the presence of some markers of inflammation, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), which is a malefactor in rheumatoid arthritis, and also of the enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), both of which are implicated in liver damage. A suggested mechanism whereby curcumin achieves this result is through upregulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), which has been associated with anti-inflammatory effects. I would point out, as a cautionary note, that this particular mechanism was described in a journal entitled PPAR Research, suggesting a certain predisposition.
However, there is one important problem with using curcumin as a drug: it is very difficult to get enough of the active ingredient into the circulation to have any therapeutic effect whatever. It is very poorly abso