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Boosting Singapore's brain health: ‘We’re trying to change the slope of cognitive decline’, says supplements boss

By Millette Burgos , 15-Feb-2017
Last updated on 15-Feb-2017 at 07:47 GMT2017-02-15T07:47:57Z

A new supplement is said to boost brain health.  ©iStock
A new supplement is said to boost brain health. ©iStock

A new cognitive health supplement firm which recently opened a base in Singapore is targetting consumers in their 40s as it seeks to expand across the region. 

With dementia affecting at least one in every 10 people over 60 in Singapore, neuroscientist and Senescence CEO Dr Shawn Watson believes that Singaporeans need to start thinking about brain health from an early age.

Ideally, preventive measures should be considered from around 40 years old, when the decline of the brain function starts to accelerate, he said.

Senescence developed Revive supplements to help curb cognitive decline due to ageing. Revive was built upon findings from research by Dr Watson and his team, including a published paper on reversing long-term memory impairment. The firm recently opened an office in Singapore because of its biotech credentials. said Dr Watson. 

Dr Shawn Watson

Revive’s five active functional ingredients are extracts from Panax Ginseng, Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica), Alpha-lipolic acid, Selenium and Vitamin E. Each ingredient has shown positive cognitive results in at least five clinical studies conducted by third-party academic labs, according to Senescence.

For example, Panax Ginseng has been found to improve aspects of working memory, mental performance, and relieves free radical build-up within cells. Gotu Kola on the other hand, appears to revitalise intelligence, memory function and combats lipid oxidation.

Dr Watson said all the ingredients are safe and effective, and were chosen to hit multiple targets within the brain cells.

“We were not testing a new drug. Our discovery has nothing to do with a new compound,” he explained. “What we discovered and have a number of patents lined up for, is an actual mechanism for our theory of why a cell ages.”

Manufactured at the company’s Canadian R&D and production plant, the product is marketed in Canada, the US, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. Plans are ongoing to bring Revive to the rest of the Asia region.

Research background

Dr Watson’s interest in the field stems from his PhD programme at the University of Calgary in Canada, where he was part of a research team that discovered a method to turn an aged invertebrate neuron into a younger one.

“The ability of the brain cell or neuron to fire an action potential or signal declines with age, and with age, its ability to communicate becomes disruptive,” Dr Watson explained. “That lack or drop in communication is what the field thinks is the primary reason for a decline in cognition.”

Although Dr Watson’s initial test subjects were invertebrates, the discovery of a method to revitalise ageing neurons of these creatures presented a possibility that natural decline of brain function and performance with age may also be reversible.

“This decline happens across the board in the animal kingdom,” he said. “And that is the backdrop of what we were working with.”

Revive’s formulation, while not using the exact ingredients from the research, are still based on Dr Watson’s original works and targets the same enzymes and mechanisms within a neuron that his publications first identified.

“One of the compounds we used in the lab was derived from a natural extract and effectively reversed all signs of neuronal ageing,” he said. “The problem was the compound was not well tolerated by the human digestive system.”

However, there are number of naturally derived substances that target the exact same enzymes – one of which is a specific compound found in Ginseng and Gotu Kola.

Dr Watson said the ingredients in the supplement were chosen for their ability to pass human digestion, their high bioavailability and known capability to pass the blood-brain barrier.

Clinical trials and qualitative data

To further test Revive’slong-term effects on brain health, the company plans to conduct a one-year clinical trial, where participants taking the supplements daily will be monitored for any changes in psychological performance, learning and memory.

“Efficacy is something that we are actively researching. If our theory and background science is correct, we may have found a method to slow and reverse ageing,” Dr Watson said.

In Singapore, the company gathered qualitative data from 150 participants that took Revive for the past four months. Feedback from users included energy boosts, more focus and being able to sleep better.

Although qualitative data is subjective, Dr Watson feels that feedback is important. It also explained Senescence’s six and 12-months subscription model for its customers.

To be able to gain the benefits, customers need to take the supplement daily for at least three months, and being on a subscription plan is the best way to ensure continuous intake of Revive, he said. For now, Revive is available online via the company website.

“We are not trying to cure Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr Watson. “Our goal is to change the slope leading to cognitive decline, and increase health span.”

“The brain becomes more fragile as we age, and is susceptible to disease, and the key is to make it more resilient and be able to fight of diseases,” he concluded.

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