Dietary supplement snake-oil neurobollocks

neurozanAs a wise lady once said, “If you want to sell something, stick a brain on it.” Or in this case, the prefix ‘neuro’. And then the suffix ‘zan’ – whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Neurozan dietary supplements are widely advertised in the UK, and the parent company, Vitabiotics, markets a bewildering variety of dietary supplements targeted at different demographic groups.  The Neurozan supplements come in two varieties, original and plus, with the only difference being the ‘plus’ version includes some omega-3 capsules as well. They retail at around £10 for 30-odd tablets. 

A pubmed search for ‘neurozan’ yields precisely zero results, so it appears that there’s no published work on the effects or effectiveness of these supplements. Despite this, the website proclaims ‘Each Neurozan® tablet combines all round nutritional support with a careful balance of vitamins and minerals based on a wealth of published research.’ They contain a long list of vitamins and minerals (the kind you normally find in any multi-vitamin supplement) plus a few ‘special’  ingredients such as gingko biloba and 5-HTP – both of which may actually be psychoactive compounds, but you’d need a considerably larger dose to see any possible effects. A good detailed discussion of the list of ingredients in Neurozan is available in this post on the Ministry of Truth blog.

The research on dietary supplements suggests that with very few exceptions (pregnant women, other people with specific medical conditions) taking a daily multivitamin supplement is unnecessary, as long as you’re generally healthy and eat a sufficiently varied diet (review papers: 1, 2, 3). To be fair to Vitabiotics they studiously avoid making any particularly egregious claims on their website about the effectiveness of Neurozan. They use typical weasel/marketing phrases like “[contains] important nutrients to help contribute to normal cognitive function”, which essentially mean nothing at all.

Other neuro-snake-oil merchants are much bolder in the claims they make though. FOCUSfactor pills are the same old blend of vitamins and fish-oils, yet claim to be ‘Clinically shown to improve memory, concentration and focus’. Hilariously, in tiny text at the bottom of the website are the words “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” They’re very proud of a ‘clinical study’ that apparently showed improvements on a particular memory test after six weeks of taking their product, however the study’s never been published in any form, and the smart money says it probably never will be.

765There are hundreds more of these products available, with the only real difference between them being the aggressiveness of their advertising and the variety (probably some are more constrained by local advertising regulations than others) of maladies they claim to treat. Really, little has changed since the 19th Century days of Clark Stanley. As long as people can be induced to buy magic potions, unscrupulous people will make money selling them, the only difference now is that to be convincing, you have to put the word ‘Neuro’ on the bottle somewhere.

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4 responses to “Dietary supplement snake-oil neurobollocks

  1. Great blog and it has suddenly made me realise how much ‘snake oil’ there is in all kinds of industries, not just medicine. I follow a few groups talking about innovation and management. There is a similar load of baseless cobblers spouted out as evidence, with nothing whatsoever behind the 1,3,7,12,15 rules for success, beyond mindless self aggrandisement!

  2. Reblogged this on Nosapience's Blog and commented:
    Once again Neurobollocks hits the spot with an eloquent rant at supplements, snake oil and the salubrious use of the prefix “nuero” to make shit sound cool. Makes me think of all the double barrelled ‘distributed leadership’ cobblers around at the moment. I wonder what will be the next trendy word the fuckwits adopt … ‘Neuroleadership’ perhaps?

  3. This is a Neuroawasome product that is completely ID10T approved.

  4. If you have any idea on how to do a proper literature search on pubmed or any other site, you would know that simply typing in ‘neurozan’ is not going to give you a long list of research papers on the product. Rather, using a combination of search terms including ‘vitamin*’, ‘multivitamin’, ‘brain*’, ‘function’, ‘neuro*’, ‘omega-3’, ‘iron’, ‘zinc’, ‘iodine’ etc will show you many studies that have been done on the effects of certain vitamins and minerals on cognitive health. It is evident that healthy brain function relys upon your body’s nutrition and this product helps to ensure your body is provided with the nutrients that have been proven to maintain a healthy brain. Of course, if you believe your diet is varied enough to get all these vitamins regularly then that’s great for yourself. Unfortunately that is not the case for everyone out there especially with the amount of junk food and genetically modified and inorganic sometimes toxic foods out there. Please learn how to conduct research before criticizing the research others have spent their lives developing and presenting. Thank you.

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