Smelly Jelly: Another Stinker of a Supplement

By Josh Bloom — Sep 23, 2015
Are you failing to get enough jellyfish in your diet? If so, you better hurry out and get some supplemental jellyfish, because ... well, just because. The company that sells the useless junk claims that it will improve your memory. But they obviously forgot to run clinical trials to prove it.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 4.36.48 PMI guess people will eat just about anything. It seems that way because so many will swallow whatever nonsense comes their way, especially when it comes to misinformation about dietary supplements.

The latest bit of insanity comes to us courtesy of Quincy Bioscience, a Wisconsin company that sells, well, a bunch of garbage. One piece of detritus is a money burner called Prevagen, which the company claims will improve your memory. With clinical data! (I guess they forgot the rather obvious principle that clinical data are supposed to actually demonstrate that something works.)

Fortunately, someone was paying attention. Truth in Advertising ( has filed a deceptive advertising complaint against Quincy with the Federal Trade Commission.

Quincy's clinical trial "data" were worse than pitiful. According to the complaint:

  • None [of the clinical studies] were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals
  • Two of the three failed to include a control group, and amount to nothing more than anecdotal information based on a small group s answers to three questions
  • The one double-blind and placebo-controlled study cited did not find a significant difference, with regard to cognitive function between people who were given the main ingredient in Prevagen and those who were given the placebo.

Aside from that, everything was pretty much OK.

What a joke.

ACSH advisor Dr. David S. Seres, director of medical nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center, was quoted in the complaint.

"Considering how the body digests the jellyfish-inspired ingredient at the center of the Prevagen formula makes this last bullet point [above] less surprising," Seres said. "Simply put, apoaequorin, as a protein, cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier and thus is blocked from any interaction with the nervous system."

He went on to say that it "is biologically inconceivable that taking a protein by mouth would have any effect on memory."

Yet, that didn't stop people from buying more than two million bottles of this uselessness since the company started selling it in 2007. At $50 per bottle, that's $100 million which was voluntarily donated to Quincy by Americans who needed the memory supplement badly enough to remember that you should shouldn't buy memory supplements.

Politicians were howling up a storm when the otherwise-lovely Martin Shkreli and his scummy company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought up the rights to all of Daraprim, the (only) toxoplasmosis drug, and jacked up the price by 56 times overnight. Some of them were even using it as an excuse to condemn the pharmaceutical industry, which had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Not a word about this, though, from lawmakers. I wonder why. Could it be that it's politically expedient to criticize companies that actually make real drugs, but maintain radio silence when the beloved supplements industry is caught (and regularly) selling its useless junk?

Nah. I'm probably just too cynical.

Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Recent articles by this author:
ACSH relies on donors like you. If you enjoy our work, please contribute.

Make your tax-deductible gift today!



Popular articles