NAD advises company to yank brain injury protection claims relating to omega-3s

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - serggn
©Getty Images - serggn

Related tags Omega-3s Omega-3 fatty acid EPA and DHA Curcumin Resveratrol supplementation Resveratrol Brain health Traumatic brain injury

A company marketing a brain health supplement has been advised by an industry watchdog to discontinue claims associated with protection against traumatic brain injuries and other health endpoints.

The company, known as Cover Three, markets a supplement called Brain Defense that includes omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol and turmeric. After a challenge of the claims on the supplement that was brought by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the National Advertising Division recommended that the company discontinue claims for the product that include:

  • Brain Defense has a positive impact on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • The ingredients in the products improve cognition and memory
  • Brain Defense ‘boosts physical performance.’

In addition, NAD recommended that the company take down a testimonial on its site that read: “As a mother of a newborn I want to make sure my baby gets the nutrients needed to grow a beautiful brain. I love this Dr. formulated product!”

NAD noted that during the course of the case the company chose to remove or modify a number of the challenged claims. But NAD said it was concerned that the company had substituted those with web pages that advertised the purported TBI benefits of the product with photographs a child in football gear and a soldier in uniform.  The picture of the child included the caption:  “Defend your brain. Before, during and after the season.” ​ The soldier photo had this caption: “Return: Issues do not have to define you. Regenerate the past,” ​which would appear to be an allusion to PTSD benefits. 

History of brain injuries in family

One of Cover Three’s founders is Dr Garrett Wdowin, NMD, a naturopathic doctor who played collegiate football at Brown University.  The company’s website claims he has been a speaker at a meeting of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. The company’s founding story includes several brain injuries suffered within the family of the company founders, said to be Dr Wdowin and his brother.

NAD determined that the advertiser’s evidence did not support a qualified claim that DHA will protect against TBIs, such as concussions, and recommended that the claims be discontinued. NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue all references and images relating to TBIs on the “Our Story”​ portion of its website.

NAD further determined that the evidence in the record was not sufficiently reliable or a good fit to support qualified claims regarding the ability of any of the ingredients in Brain Defense to improve cognition and memory.

Developing science on TBIs

While the panel determined the evidence submitted by the company did not support the claims in this case, the connection of omega-3s to protection against traumatic brain injuries is a developing area in the science behind these ingredients. For example, a review paper published this month in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports ​indicated that while the evidence for the use of natural products in this area is far from conclusive, it is promising enough to warrant further research.

“As our ability to accurately diagnose concussion improves, dimethyl fumarate, memantine, thioredoxin-mimetic peptides, transcranial photobiomodulation, and nutritional supplements (berberine, creatine, curcumin, melatonin, omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol, and vitamins) warrant further preclinical and clinical examination in advancing the treatment of sport-related concussions,”​ the authors wrote.

Omega-3s webinar

The relationship of omega-3s to protection against traumatic brain injuries was one of the topics covered in a NutraIngredients-USA webinar that took place on Sept. 24.  The all star panel included Dr Jeffrey Bland, PhD of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute, Dr Philip Calder, PhD of the University of Southampton in the UK and Dr William Harris, PhD of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.  To listen to this exclusive NutraIngredients-USA webinar on demand, visit the event’s home page​.

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