Jellyfish protein (apoequorin): benefits, side effects, dosage


Alternative practitioners have long argued that the jellyfish protein (apoequorin) taken by mouth can bind calcium in the brain and enhance electrical signals between nerve cells. It is believed to improve memory by slowing down the progressive loss of cognitive function .

Since calcium deposits in the brain are believed to contribute to the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease , jellyfish protein has been suggested as a possible prevention and treatment strategy.

In recent years, apoequorin has been used to make the dietary supplement Prevagen, which the manufacturer claims may improve memory, mental function, and quality of sleep.

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Apoequorin was first isolated from crystalline jellyfish ( Aequorea victoria ) in 1962. In nature, apoequorin emits blue light when exposed to calcium.

What is jellyfish protein used for?

Problems with calcium regulation are believed to play a key role in the deterioration of mental development associated with aging.

Because apoaequorin has a similar structure to calcium-binding proteins such as calretinin and parvalbumin, some scientists argue that it can improve calcium regulation and prevent or even reverse calcification of brain tissue .

By doing so, apoequorin could, in theory, treat or prevent:

Despite the health claims, little evidence remains that supplementing with jellyfish protein or apoequorin can treat any medical condition.

Of the currently available studies that we review here, conclusions are often limited to small size and / or poor study design. Others rely heavily on pseudoscience .

Verbal learning and memory

An example is the Madison Memory Study , published in 2016 in the journal Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. He evaluated the effects of apoequorin in 218 adults aged 40 to 91 years with self-reported memory problems .

Half received daily doses of 10 milligrams (mg) of apoequorin supplement, while the other half received a placebo . All participants took computerized cognitive tests multiple times during the 90-day trial.

Compared to the placebo group, those who received the apoequorin supplement showed improvement in memorization and verbal learning with each subsequent test. There was no significant improvement in the placebo group.

Based on the results, the researchers concluded that apoequorin supplementation was effective in "addressing the cognitive decline associated with aging."

Despite the positive results, the study was overshadowed by a very subjective way of selecting participants. After all, self-reported " memory problems " can be caused by a variety of reasons, especially in people with such a large age difference.

Improvements were only seen in healthy adults or adults with mild disabilities; no improvement was seen in those with significant cognitive impairment.

What's more, the fact that the participants were tested regularly throughout the study invariably resulted in cognitive improvements. Even in people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease, routine brain exercise (also known as cognitive training) almost always improves memory and cognitive function, in addition to improving social interaction .

Without a binding factor to justify a choice (such as an early-stage Alzheimer's disease diagnosis) and other confounding factors, any conclusions drawn can be misleading or easily misinterpreted.

It should be noted that this study was funded by the manufacturer Prevagen Quincy Bioscience.

Conclusions and contradictions

Deficiencies like these allow manufacturers to make claims that far exceed what research actually shows.

Of course, in Alzheimer's or any other form of dementia, brain scans using computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could provide a much better idea of the effects of apoequorin in the brain, given the presumed mechanism of action . . To date, these studies are clearly not observed.

The jellyfish protein controversy peaked in 2019 when the makers of Prevagen, a synthetic apoequorin-based memory enhancement supplement, filed in a second FTC lawsuit for misleading advertising .

In its lawsuit, the FTC accused Quincy Bioscience of "false claims" that Prevagen could improve memory "in 90 days."

The FTC pointed to the Madison Memory Study, in which even the researchers said the improvements were not statistically significant.

Possible side effects.

Little is known about the long-term safety of apoaequorin in any form. Studies using synthetic apoequorin have shown it to be safe and well tolerated for up to 90 days.

Common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

There are not enough studies evaluating the safety of apoaequorin for pregnant women and babies. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to avoid this supplement.

It is also unclear whether apoaekuorin can cause drug interactions. Talk to your doctor if you are using or intend to use any additional or alternative medications . This is especially true if you are taking chronic medications or if you are treating a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Dosage and preparation

Apoequorin is found almost exclusively in the United States in the oral supplement Prevagen, but it is also used as an ingredient in other memory-enhancing products. Natural apoaecorin obtained from crystalline jellyfish is not commercially available.

Prevagen is available without a prescription as oral or chewable tablets in 10 mg (normal strength), 20 mg (additional strength), and 50 mg (professional strength). (Despite the use of the term "professional strength," there are no prescription versions of Prevagen.)

Prevagen is taken once a day in the morning with or without food.

All indicated doses are indicated by the manufacturer. This information should not be construed as an indication that the doses are safe or effective.

Other questions

Can I take Prevagen if I am allergic to shellfish?
According to the manufacturer, Prevagen does not cause allergies. The claim is supported by manufacturer-funded research .

Is Prevagen covered by insurance?
No, but most nutritional supplements do too. On the other hand, prescription drugs used to treat Alzheimer's disease are usually covered, at least in part, by insurance. These include medications such as Aricept (donepezil) , Exelon (rivastigmine), and Razadin (galantamine).

Are there other manufacturers that use apoecorin in their memory enhancement products?
Prevagen is the only major brand that uses apoecorin as an active ingredient. There are other supplements that are said to improve brain function, each of which contains different active ingredients.

What other supplements are used to improve brain function?
Although the evidence for their benefits for memory and cognitive function is limited, alternative practitioners often recommend aniracetam , ginkgo biloba, pregnenolone , and tyrosine. They are easy to buy online or in specialty health food stores.

Get the word of drug information

If you are experiencing significant memory loss, avoid self-medication. It is best to consult your doctor, who may perform tests, or refer you to a neurologist for a more careful examination and determine the cause.

If you are considering trying a memory supplement, talk to your doctor first.

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