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A Powerful 4-Step Strategy to Outsmart Brain Scams

Keep your brain (and your wallet) safe with these top tips!


By Austin Perlmutter, MD

 


KEY POINTS

  • Beware of sensationalized claims: Products promising unbelievable outcomes with minimal effort are likely gimmicks and should be approached with skepticism. Real brain-boosting strategies require commitment and provide gradual, sustainable results.

  • Avoid quick-fix solutions: Anything guaranteeing an instant, dramatic improvement in brain function is likely misleading. Legitimate strategies for enhancing brain function are long-term commitments, not overnight fixes.

  • Demand scientific evidence: Don't be swayed by endorsements from experts, celebrities, or social media hype. Many "brain-boosting" products lack substantial scientific backing, which is crucial when seeking improved mood and cognitive clarity.

  • Opt for sustainable, healthy habits: Rather than relying on dubious products, focus on well-established practices that promote long-term brain health. These simple steps are more reliable and effective in the pursuit of enhanced cognitive function.


Open google, your favorite social media platform or any tabloid magazine, and you’re certain to hear about the latest hacks to feel amazing for the rest of your life. Whether it’s a supplement, superfood, novel device, app or even a pharmaceutical, we’re constantly inundated with the promise that the only thing standing between where we stand now and clearer thinking, better focus or improved mood is just a quick purchase away. Yet the vast majority of these pitches don’t deliver even a fraction of their promise. Here’s how to avoid wasting your time and money on what doesn’t work, and what to do instead.


1. Avoid the sensationalized:


The bigger the promise, the higher the chance it won’t deliver. Whether it’s rapid weight loss or a pill that will boost your IQ overnight, any pitch that assures you of an incredible, unbelievable outcome (especially if it doesn’t require any work on your end) is almost certainly a gimmick or other fallacy. Though there is great data for a number of brain-boosting strategies, these are nearly exclusively interventions that require commitment, and deliver more reasonable results that compound over time.


2. Skip the quick fix:

There are few red flags as important as the “quick-fix” scheme. From money-making scams to overnight brain boosting supplements, anything that guarantees a complete turnaround in brain function in the blink of an eye is relatively sure to be misleading. Scientific research absolutely supports the role of a number of strategies to help improve brain function but these are long-term plays, not instant outcomes.


3. Ignore the fluff and ask for the science:

It’s easy to be lulled into buying product when there’s an “expert” behind it. It may be even more compelling when our favorite celebrity swears by a device, or when a bunch of people on social media have given a 5-star vote of confidence. But while these plays may make sense for a new piece of furniture or garment, they shouldn’t really apply when we’re talking about brain health interventions. The truth is that the majority of “brain-boosting” products on the market are based on non-existent or incredibly limited data. That matters a lot when we’re promised something like better mood or clearer thinking.



4. Choose the sustainable, healthy habits that are most linked to better brain health:


Most brain products may be suspect, but this doesn’t mean powerful, effective tools don’t exist. Instead, the things that are best known to support better brain function today and for the rest of your life are simple steps that are largely unrelated to purchasing any fancy or “breakthrough” product.



The Basics that Matter Most:

  1. Quality Sleep: Good sleep is a rapid and powerful intervention for better brain health including sharper focus, better memory and better mood. And, quality sleep is linked to better long-term brain health as well.

  2. Regular Exercise: Physical activity is one of the most studied and consistently proven ways to enhance brain function today and for years to come. It may also protect against brain disease like Alzheimer’s.

  3. Eating real food: Eating a typical diet has been shown to increase risk for brain issues, but consuming a diet rich in minimally processed foods, (especially fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like olive oil) may help decrease the odds of mental health issues and dementia.

  4. Stress management: Chronic stress is well known to damage the brain. Mindful practice, time in nature, breathing exercises and working with a qualified mental health professional can counter stress and help keep your brain in top form.

  5. Continuous learning: Research shows that people who keep learning over their lifespans are at lower risk for developing dementia. Keep your brain sharp by learning something new and pushing your brain’s abilities each day.

  6. Social connection: Compelling data shows that the more socially connected we feel, the better our health is. This may be especially true for brain health. Call a loved one, set a coffee date or make plans with friends!




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A version of this article was published on Psychology Today by Austin Perlmutter

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