AARP Report on Supplements and Brain Health Suffers from Host of Limitations, Despite Good Intentions

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2019—In response to a report, “The Real Deal on Brain Health Supplements: GCBH Recommendations on Vitamins, Minerals, and Other Dietary Supplements,” published by the Global Council on Brain Health, a collaborative from AARP, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, issued the following statement:

Statement by Andrew Shao, Ph.D., interim senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN:

“CRN concurs with many components of the AARP report on supplements and brain health—finding agreement in its general advice for consumers to speak with their healthcare practitioners about their supplement use and to look for third-party certifications and indications of quality—but the report’s limitations, including its lack of transparency and context for its conclusions, as well as an inaccurate generalization of the dietary supplement marketplace, greatly disappoint us. The seemingly predetermined conclusions of the report are more a reflection of factual inaccuracies and other facts raised out of context rather than a summary of the process used to get there.

CRN and our members are committed to ensuring that consumers of all ages have access to safe, appropriately labeled and high quality products and do not fall prey to illegal activity. We condemn allegations of marketers of products bearing egregious, outlandish claims that mislead older Americans. We know that dietary supplements play an important role for aging Americans looking to maintain overall health and wellness. Therefore, we strive to protect their access and strongly advocate for regulatory enforcement against unlawful products claiming to cure or prevent any disease, including Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Because of our efforts, products like these are not mainstream.
We hope that, in the future, organizations such as AARP will consider having CRN at the table for discussions on the current body of science on dietary supplements. Although not mentioned in the report, there is encouraging research that demonstrates certain dietary supplements can help to support brain function. There is considerable evidence that adequate nutrients are essential for brain health whether obtained through balanced diets or with vitamin and mineral supplements that can fill in the gaps. Emerging research has demonstrated connections between consumption of other supplement ingredients—from omega 3s and amino acids to probiotics and even caffeine—to improved brain function.
We agree with the report that there is still a need for more research—not only to explore the link between nutrient status and cognitive outcomes, but also to identify those at risk for micronutrient deficiencies that might result in cognitive impairment. In the meantime, we discourage the practices exhibited here, of cherry-picking the scientific literature, overlooking research that demonstrates benefits and lack of contextual information that properly informs readers. For doing so only adds to misinformation among consumers and fuels an unfair bias against an overwhelmingly safe product category.

We encourage consumers of all ages to have a dialogue with their healthcare practitioner about their supplement use, and to take caution when coming across a dietary supplement product with claims that sound too good to be true. Consumer safety is our top priority, and we will continue doing our part to meet the consumer demand for safe, beneficial and high quality products.”

Note to Editor: The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 150+ dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements and food in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as to CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit Follow us on Twitter @CRN_SupplementsFacebook, and LinkedIn