In 2008 the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Americans Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien and Japan’s Osamu Shimomura for their discovery and isolation of Green Fluorescent Protein from jellyfish. Shimomura first isolated GFP from a jellyfish found off the west coast of the US in 1962 and demostrated that it glowed bright green under ultraviolet light. The Nobel Prize recognized the value of a luminescent protein in use as a “tag” or “marker” for tracking various physiological processes in the body. Shiomura collected the outer rings of Aequorea victoria and squeezed the juice out of them to get the bioluminescent protein. Roger Tsien was able to change out various amino acids in this complex protein to alter the color, intensity, and duration of the fluorescence. Marty Chalfie and others were able to insert the gene that coded for GFP and therefore use it as a marker to track production of various biologically active molecules. They were able to insert the GFP gene between the gene for the target protein and the “stop” codon, making a bioluminescent version of the target protein that could be easily monitored. Read more about that science here.
Notice that none of these scientists thought it would be a good idea to eat the stuff. The value of GFP is in its use as a biological tool for scientific study. The promoters and manufacturer of apoaequorin protein, the synthetic version of GFP, would have you believe that it improves memory function. Others have made even more fantastic claims such as holding Alzeiheimer’s at bay, battling delusions, and augmenting dream-awareness. Great. I happen to believe we have a huge placebo effect happening here. Oh, before I forget, Quincy Bioscience, the manufacturer, was able to grant Prevagen GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status for itself, simply by gathering opinions and sending a letter off to the FDA. Prevagen does not have to be independently tested for safety nor efficacy because it is marketed as a “food.” A very expensive food at forty bucks for a bottle of 30 capsules.
Intersetingly, Prevagen is harvested from GMOs. Yep, genetically modified e. Coli are grown in vats, after have their genes tinkered with, and the apoaequorin is extracted from the fermentation broth. There is no valid, peer reviewed study to support the claims of improved memory or any of the other claims made on the packaging.
But here’s the rub. We are talking about a protein made of of about 80 amino acids. One of the main functions of our digestive tract is to digest proteins. You may recall some of this process: Chewing begins to break down the protein, physically creating more surface area, next stomach acid start to “unfold” these complex molecules exposing them to the action of the enzyme pepsin. By now the protein molecule has started to fall apart into “peptides.” As this acidic broth of peptides enters the small intestine, a bicarbonate buffer from the pancreas neutralizes the acid. The neutral environment of this portion of your gut encourages the activity of more protein-digesting enzymes, such as trypsin and chymotrypsin, originating from both your pancreas and the cells lining your small intestine. Essentially, this process results in individual amino acids that can then be absorbed and distributed throughout the body. So when you eat a Prevagen capsule, the wonderful jellyfish protein they love to brag about is DECONTRUCTED into amino acids! At best you are getting some very expensive amino acids. So although, this may be a unique protein for us humans, the amino acids that go into that e. Coli broth are not. I feel we are spending a lot of time and money feeding amino acid building blocks to pampered e. Coli, extracting, encapsulating, and packaging a product that we will simply digest back to the amino acids that we fed to the e. Coli.
So the only benefit from this stuff has to come from the amino acids, right? There is no need to spend $40 a month. If you are concerned that you are missing some nutrient that is harming your memory, improve your nutrition. I just suggested to our new vegan employee that she add some whey to her diet to ensure that she is getting the essential amino acids needed by the human body. I have written about whey before. The FDA and the FTC both have objected to the marketing practices for Prevagen and Quincy Bioscience has, so far, been able to stonewall any impact on their marketing.
Stop wasting your money !
Oh When I was pondering a title for this piece the old song “Jam Up and Jelly Tight” came to mind even though I hadn’t heard or thought about it for many years. I guess I do not need Prevagen either. Anyway, in 1968, this Tommy Roe song was too sexy for a lot of folks as it seemed to be pressuring a perfectly nice girl to say yes to sex. You can check it out for yourself. It is pretty tame by today’s standards. Hey, at least he asked:
“You’ve got a sweet disposition
So come on and give me permission”