The following is a guest post by biochemist and nutritionist Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, co-founder of Neutein.
Nootropics are substances (supplements but also drugs) that improve brain function, focus, attention, and creativity. They have been popular among ‘biohackers’—a niche group of people obsessed with experimenting and finding ways to improve mental and physical performance—but now the use of nootropics is becoming more mainstream. Before you start using nootropics, it is important to know these five things.
1. Quality is important
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that in the last nine years unapproved pharmaceutical agents were found in 776 different dietary supplements. This study emphasized the fact that quality ingredients and manufacturing is important. Often, nootropic ingredients are purchased on the open market, and one cannot trace their source and verify the purity of the ingredients. Giving people peace of mind about quality and purity was an important factor when Neutein was developed. This is why Neutein only contains patented all-natural plant-based ingredients where we can track the journey from seed to field to capsule. Neutein is also manufactured in an FDA inspected facility that is GMP certified
2. Not All nootropics are researched in healthy people
Brains are all different. Especially the brains of healthy individuals compared to people that may already be suffering from cognitive decline. Because there is a large interest in improving the health of failing brains, more research goes into nootropics that might help people in those populations, which doesn’t always translate into supplements working in a healthy brain. For example, a couple of studies show that when 400 mg of the nootropic alpha-GPC is taken three times a day by people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, it can slightly improve cognitive function after three months of daily use. You might hear that alpha-GPC would work for you (perhaps a younger person with no cognitive decline) but unfortunately there is no evidence to support that, despite tons of alpha-GPC being sold to improve mental function. Before you take a nootropic, make sure science says it will work for you.
3. Some nootropics make you jittery or give you anxiety
Nootropics can enhance your mental function and performance in a variety of different ways. Many nootropics, like caffeine or yohimbine, are stimulants. They can increase your heart rate and level of alertness by stimulating your nervous system. Unfortunately, this can also increase anxiety. One interesting fact about caffeine is that it not only increases your reaction time but also can decrease the accuracy of your reaction. On the other hand, research shows that Neutein increases both reaction time and accuracy of reaction time, while not being a stimulant that increases your heart rate, makes you jittery, nor increases feeling of anxiety.
4. There is no one-size-fits-all nootropic
Nootropics as a class of supplements/drugs covers a wide range of functions ranging from improving motivation to creativity to focus and attention. This means you aren’t likely to find a nootropic that does everything. It is important to determine what benefit you would like to have and then find a product that supports it. For example, if you would like to improve your focus and attention, Neutein contains antioxidants that have been shown in three different studies to do this. But if you would like to enhance your creativity, then l-theanine is the supplement that may be able to help with that.
5. How much you take matters
One of the biggest areas where I see people make mistakes with nootropics (or supplements in general) is with how much they take. If you have a headache and take ibuprofen, you know that you need to take a certain amount for it to be effective. The same is true for nootropics. Just because you are taking a supplement that contains ashwagandha (an herb purported to help with stress management) that doesn’t mean you are going to reap the benefits. Research shows that you need 200 mg, three times per day for it to be effective. Taking less will likely not make much of a difference.
Nootropics can have a positive effect on your memory and mental function, but it’s important that the nootropics you’re taking work for you and are safe, and that you’re taking them in the right amounts.
Dr. Mike Roussell is a biochemist, nutritionist, and co-founder of Neutein. He holds a degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University.
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