So I was reading through the USA Today the other day and came across the following half-page advertorial: Never Too Old to Restore Memory, Claims Creator of Medicare-Reimbursed Brain Health Breakthrough. Already a mouthful, there’s a bit more with the sub-head : Dr. Arnold Bresky offers new memory formula along with complimentary copy of “Four Pillars” brain health protocol.
The ad — which looks a lot like a standard article and might be confused with actual reporting if read too quickly — goes on to talk about things like “dramatic memory improvement,” “a scientific system that helps forgetful brains snap awake,” and “improved mood and feelings of well-being.” While marketed toward older adults with cognitive issues and Alzheimer’s, this piqued my curiosity as I’ve had lingering issues with brain fog and memory after a couple of bad concussions.
But along with my curiosity came a healthy dose of skepticism. About the “memory formula,” which is never mentioned by name in the ad, about the ingredients, which don’t even make a cameo appearance, about the “randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies,” that aren’t actually listed, about the company that manufactures the product (you guessed it: MIA) and about the supplement industry as a whole, on which society shells out absurd amounts of money, myself included.
Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about how trusting we tend to be as a society. How we collectively, as a general rule, still believe what is told to us. How we think businesses really are looking out for our well-being. Because at the end of the day, that’s what these really are, for-profit businesses.
So how do we know what’s legit? When we’re being duped? When it might actually make sense to spend $59.95 a month (how much it is for a bottle of the mystery formula)? Well, a little research and some critical thinking skills are probably all that’s needed. In this case, there is a toll-free number at the bottom of the ad — 800.646.0113 —and that’s where I started.
Turns out my rep, Rick, was quite helpful. The memory formula is called Procera AVH™, a cognitive enhancer with the following ingredients:
- Vinpocetine (VIN): A natural extract of the periwinkle flower
- Huperzine A (HUP): Derived from Chinese Club Moss
- Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC): A fish and red meat derivative
A guy named Josh Reynolds invented the formula and it’s made by Brain Research Labs. Still am not overly clear on where Dr. Bresky comes in, though he’s listed under Science Advisory on the Procera AVH website. The relationship is somewhat unclear; sounds to me like he’s simply an endorser of the product, even though the whole ad is framed around him.
Rick makes a few attempts to get me to buy the product, saying “it’s going help anyone who has memory loss, poor focus …,” followed by “the best way to know if something is going to work is by actually taking it.” Yeah, maybe so, but I always like to know what I’m putting into my body, who makes it, and so on, BEFORE I try it.
Next step for me was to check out their website, which is actually quite informative and answered many of my questions. It sounds like they’ve done their homework, and I came away with a sense that even if the compound doesn’t work, chances are it won’t be detrimental to my health. That being said, there were some warning flags and some things I’d find later: (Check out even more warning flags on Supplement Geek)
- There are no links to any of the studies that are referenced, at least that I could find on the website
- There is no exact listing of ingredient amounts. I understand this is a “proprietary blend,” but vitamin supplements have no trouble showcasing specific amounts of what’s listed in their supplements.
- There was a Procera AVH False Advertising Class Action Settlement in 2012
- Neither the website, nor the customer service rep, made any mention of side effects that I saw, yet numerous reviews on Amazon and elsewhere note some pretty significant adverse effects
Does all this mean you should or shouldn’t use it? Hard to say. Perhaps the memory formula, and active ingredients, work for some people and not for others. At the very least, though, Procera AVH is a good example on how to approach all supplements — with a degree of caution and informed curiosity.
Do your homework. If you have questions, make sure they’re answered. If someone can’t answer you or tries to pressure you into purchasing something, chances are that product and company are not ones you want to be doing business with.
Remember, this is your body that you’re putting these supplements into. The proverbial temple. Make sure you treat it as sacrosanct.