People Should Not Take Galantamine Supplements, Experts Warn

A new investigation found that most galantamine supplements marketed for boosting memory and cognition do not contain the amount of galantamine as indicated on the label.

Galantamine is an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor derived from a plant extract that may help slow down the breakdown of specific chemicals in the brain. Doctors prescribe either brand name galantamine (Razadyne) or its generic version to treat symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

This memory-boosting compound is also sold as a dietary supplement and marketed to enhance memory and cognition and support dream recall or lucid dreaming.

However, according to a new study published February 23 in JAMA, many of these supplements have inaccurate labeling, with wildly different amounts of galantamine than indicated on the label. Moreover, a trade association representing the dietary supplement industry says galantamine supplements are illegally marketed and should be banned.

To conduct the study, the scientists purchased 10 galantamine dietary supplements available on Amazon in June 2023. They also collected 11 generic galantamine prescription drug products.

After analyzing the contents of the generic medications, the researchers found that the quantity of galantamine was within 10% of the amount indicated on the label. Generic galantamine was also free of microorganism contaminants.

In contrast, the quantity of galantamine in dietary supplements varied widely, from less than 2% to 110% of the amount shown on the label. Only one contained the compound at quantities within 10% of what was indicated on the product's packaging.

Moreover, three supplements were contaminated with Bacillus cereus ss, a bacteria associated with diarrhea. However, the researchers note that the level of contamination found in the supplements would not likely cause illness.

In light of these findings, the investigators expressed concern over the sale of inaccurately labeled galantamine supplements because of their potential to cause drug interactions and adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, and slow heart rate.

In an emailed statement to Healthnews, The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), an association representing the dietary supplement industry, said, "Products containing galantamine are not legitimate dietary supplements and, if offered as such, are illegally marketed. The Council for Responsible Nutrition urges FDA and any retailers who are selling these fake supplements to immediately remove them from the market to protect consumers."

The study's authors say that reform of dietary supplement regulations is needed so that the FDA can enforce laws and ensure supplement labels accurately reflect their contents. They also suggest that healthcare providers caring for people with memory concerns should advise against using galantamine supplements.

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