What is DMAE?
DMAE is a liquid organic compound that’s naturally produced in the brain; it’s also found in sardines, anchovies, squid and salmon. It is sold in health-food stores as a supplement that enhances brain function and mood.
DMAE has several industrial and commercial applications. As of 2002, half of the DMAE produced in the United States was used to make flocculants, or substances that promote particle clumping, for wastewater treatment plants. Other industrial products that contain DMAE include polyurethane lacquers and foams, water-based paint and surface coating, and corrosion inhibitor formulas.
In pharmaceuticals, DMAE is used to treat central nervous system and brain conditions. Proponents claim that DMAE increases the brain’s production of acetylcholine, which affects functions such as short-term memory, learning, REM sleep and attention. However, research hasn’t established an ironclad link between DMAE and acetylcholine production. DMAE study findings are often contradictory, so the supposed benefits of DMAE are quite controversial.
The most common DMAE claim is that it improves memory, concentration and intellectual function. According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, however, there aren’t any clinical studies that support this claim. DMAE has been used successfully to treat patients with ADHD, but was deemed unsuccessful in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease or Huntington’s chorea. A 1995 study found, however, that rats that were given DMAE showed improvements in working memory performance.
Dr. Perricone alleges that DMAE decreases anxiety, boosts dopamine effects and improves energy. He also touts DMAE as a wrinkle-fighting agent that can tighten and tone skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines. A 2005 study found that consumer skincare products containing DMAE may have anti-inflammatory effects that improve skin firmness and muscle tone, but the study’s authors expressed a need for further studies that compare DMAE products to antioxidant creams and alpha-hydroxy acids.
DMAE Side Effects and Contraindications
Taking too much DMAE may lead to insomnia, headaches and muscle tension, according to Dr. Perricone. Dr. Perricone states that the recommended DMAE dosage range is between 100 mg and 300 mg per day.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns that those who are pregnant, lactating, or have schizophrenia and clonic-tonic seizure disorders should not take DMAE supplements.
In a blog post, Andrew Weil, M.D. was phlegmatic on the benefits of DMAE, writing, “DMAE may be safe, but I currently see no evidence that taking it will do anyone any good.”
An article in the Calgary Herald interviewed pharmacologist Francois Marceau of Laval University in Quebec, who discovered that skin cells exposed to DMAE swelled up, which may explain DMAE’s ability to firm skin. “This is not necessarily very dangerous, but has not been properly analyzed scientifically,” said Marceau of his findings. “I would like to see [DMAE] follow formal FDA rules for drug development.
Simon Yoo, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University, was similarly unimpressed. “Go ahead [and try DMAE products], but it won’t do much more than a moisturizer that is a lot less expensive,” he told the Calgary Herald. “It won’t be any better than Neutrogena or Cetaphil for less than a 10th of the price or a 100th of the price.”