The worry of brain related illnesses increases as we age. Older Americans fear Alzheimer’s and dementia more than any other age-related illness. Therefore, it’s no wonder so many aging adults have turned to dietary supplements to improve their odds. Claims such as “supports healthy brain function” or “improves mental alertness” are hard to pass up. However, extremely little research has shown brain health supplements to be at all effective. In fact, if you eat a healthy diet, you likely are getting all the brain boosting nutrients you need.

Supplements can be tricky. According to this Washington Post article, always look for the asterisk next to any claims on supplement bottles. Most of the time, after a claim such as ” improves brain health”, there is an asterisk. You’ll likely find that the claims are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when you flip the bottle around.

More often than not, we get all the vitamins and minerals we need from a healthy diet. More is not necessarily better. Our bodies generally can only process and use a certain amount of a vitamin or mineral. The excess will not be absorbed, and usually will be excreted through the urine. Furthermore, too much can actually be dangerous at times.

This is not to say healthy diets are the answer for everyone. For example, many seniors have trouble absorbing vitamin B12. Even when they eat a balanced diet. In cases like this, your doctor will be able to supplement you with the appropriate formulation and dose for your deficiency. It’s always best to consult a physician before trying something new. Even over-the-counter supplements can interact with a variety of prescription drugs you may be taking.

Overall, we all want to avoid brain-related illnesses and declines as we age. Yet supplements may not be the best answer for you. Unless you are deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral, it’s best to focus on eating your nutrients. It’s probably more enjoyable to eat a nice, big salad full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than to swallow a handful of pills anyways. And your brain and body will thank you in the long run.