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CHEW SMART

I was excited when I heard about Brain Gum, advertised to help do away with those "senior moments." According to its promoters, six sticks a day can help anyone who’s started to notice memory lapses.

Chemical engineer Brian English-Reichenberg is the Toronto native who dreamed up Brain Gum. He explains how Brain Gum’s active ingredient, phosphatidylserine (PS), affects the brain: "PS is found naturally in the brain and is responsible for concentration … aging, including stress, drinking and smoking, causes PS to disappear."

Brain Gum replaces the natural PS with PS from soybeans – 1,200 beans to make one stick. English-Reichenberg says he made it in the form of gum rather than a pill because sublingual (under the tongue) absorption is more efficient than through the stomach – especially for those whose digestion is not up to snuff.

It wasn’t reassuring that the first sentence of one of Brain Gum’s clinical studies read, "Phosphatidylserine has been found effective on memory processes and electrophysiological brain activity in aged rats."

I started on a strict six-stick-a-day regimen (300 mg), taking English-Reichenberg’s advice to chew for five to 10 minutes starting five minutes after each meal.

Meanwhile, I read the clinical studies. They did indeed show improvement on such measures as name-face acquisition ("What did you say your name was?"), name-face delayed recall, facial recognition and misplaced objects recall.

Could Brain Gum really be the chewy equivalent of the fountain of youth? Well, that depends.

Brain Gum is being marketed to "all adults over 45," and results are promised within a month. But the research subjects were much older – at least in their 60s, many in their 70s and 80s. And they took the drug for 12 weeks.

I found several downsides to experimenting with Brain Gum. For one thing, anyone chewing gum looks 30 IQ points stupider than when they’re not. Second, I undergo a personality change when I start to chew – sort of instant smart aleck. Another drawback: Members of my immediate family made witty remarks every time I forgot something.

Since it’s a nutritional supplement, not a medicine, Brain Gum is not tested by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s expensive, too: $14.99 at Meijer for 40 sticks. That means $75 for a one-month trial.

Did it work? Not yet. On day 25 I lost my wallet, something I haven’t done for years. And on day 29 I misplaced my keys and still hadn’t found them three days later.

I’m going to continue taking Brain Gum, though, on the off chance that it might do some good. I’ll be heading for the store just as soon as I can find my keys. Jane Slaughter

TREATS

Look for handball player Tyron Floyd on your next box of Wheaties or Magic Stars. The 23-year-old Detroiter has been named Special Olympics Michigan Inspirational Athlete of the Year, an honor which includes cereal-box fame. … Taste the joys of volunteering at this year’s Comerica Michigan TasteFest, which happens in Detroit’s New Center area over the July 4 weekend. Call 313-872-0188 to find out how.

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