“Improves memory.” “Improves focus.” “These are just a few of the claims you might see on supplements that 25 percent of adults over 50 take to keep their brains healthy. Do these items work? It’s frequently unclear because the FDA doesn’t require supplement makers to prove efficacy as long as they don’t make specific disease claims. Here’s what experts know – and don’t know – about a few of these well-known items.

Healthy Brain Supplements to Try

Here’s a list of a few healthy brain supplements that you can try:

B Vitamins

B vitamins such as B6, B12, and B9 (folic acid) all contribute to brain health. However, a supplement is usually ineffective unless you’re deficient or pregnant (folic acid is meant to prevent genetic disorders). Consult your doctor if you are at high risk for Alzheimer’s. The research on using B Vitamin supplements to improve cognition is inconclusive. To maintain your sharpness, stick to foods like leafy greens.


Caffeine pills and supplements are not recommended due to the risks of overdosing. However, you can drink coffee guilt-free as long as it doesn’t interfere with your sleep or start making you jittery. Some may be beneficial to your brain, and it’s a stimulant that helps you wake up and promotes energy by restricting adenosine receptors in the brain.


L-theanine appears to have the potential to improve mental performance, particularly when combined with caffeine. However, most surveys have been small, including one conducted in 2019 with 30 participants. Drinking green tea is a relatively safer bet until more research is done: It contains L-theanine and caffeine naturally and antioxidants that may benefit your physical and mental well-being in other ways.


A traditional Mediterranean diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with a lower risk of dementia. Can omega-3 supplements, however, help? So far, extensive studies (including one funded by the National Institutes of Health) have failed to demonstrate this. Individuals with the APOE4 gene mutation, which also is linked to Alzheimer’s, may benefit if they begin taking the supplements early enough, according to a 2017 review.

Vitamin E

This antioxidant fights free radicals, which can damage brain cells. However, extensive studies to determine whether vitamin E supplements can defend against dementia have not yielded promising results. However, one study found that they may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in people who already have it. For the time being, experts advise most healthy people to stick to foods like seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Ginkgo Biloba

Despite its use in traditional Chinese medicine, advanced research indicates that ginkgo supplements are unlikely to protect your memory. Although a few studies have suggested advantages, the most well-designed trials, including the Ginkgo Evaluation Memory study, which included 3,000 older adults, found that ginkgo does not prevent or slow dementia.


Ginseng is yet another popular Asian supplement that is frequently combined with ginkgo. Ginseng, like ginkgo, is a powerful brain booster in some studies. However, when scientists focused on the highest-quality research, the evidence did not hold up: According to a review of many trials, there is “no compelling proof” that ginseng will guard your mental abilities.


CDP-choline is not available as a dietary supplement in Europe; instead, it’s a prescription medication. According to 14 studies reviewed by researchers, there is credible evidence that it can support memory in older people with cognitive issues. However, it is unclear whether it can help stop them in healthy people. If you’re thinking about trying it, consult your doctor first.

The Takeaway

While certain supplements may be beneficial in some cases, most healthy people do not require pills to stay sharp. Strictly following a diet high in whole grains, vegetables, berries, and fish (critical components of the so-called MIND diet) can help you maintain brain health as you age. Staying active and fit, getting enough sleep, taking proper care of any health conditions, maintaining social connections, and challenging your mind as a life-long learner can all help. It’s also beneficial to the rest of your body!