More Americans than ever are concentrating on improving their brain health by decreasing stress and lowering their risk of Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s no wonder that the MIND diet was named the fourth best overall diet for 2019 by U.S. News & World Report. However, some people wish to complement their mental performance in addition to eating a healthy diet. This is where nootropic pills, often known as smart medicines, come into play.
Nootropics proponents claim that they can improve everything from mood to creativity and cognitive function, ensuring that you not only feel good but also have the energy and concentration to be productive.
But what exactly are these “smart drugs”? Are they safe to use and do they provide any health benefits? We spoke with some medical professionals about the nootropic trend and what they can do for you.
What are nootropics, exactly?
Supplements and prescription medicines known as nootropics are designed to improve mental performance, alleviate stress, and minimise the risk of cognitive decline. However, it’s unclear what qualifies a supplement as a nootropic, as numerous vitamins and minerals have the potential to improve brain function. Caffeine, for example, is considered a nootropic, so if you start your mornings with a cup of coffee, you’re taking one. L-theanine, a chemical found in green tea that improves mental attention, is also a nootropic.
“Nootropics is a word that has been coined. People use the phrase “cognitive enhancer” in an arbitrary and imprecise manner, although there are many different types of cognitive enhancers “Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, Richard S. Isaacson, MD, says. “Caffeine can help you concentrate. Many individuals believe that exercise improves cognition. Nootropics aren’t backed by science.”
When it comes to enhancing your cognitive function and lowering your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Taking only one vitamin won’t make a significant difference in their brain health.
“A lot of folks are searching for a miracle pill,” Dr. Isaacson adds, “but there’s nothing I offer.” “If someone want to enhance their brain, we must first determine what it is that they wish to improve. Memory, attention, processing speed, language, and arousal are all aspects of cognition.”
Rather of focusing on taking a product that claims to boost your mental function, Dr. Isaacson suggests peeling back the layers of your lifestyle and asking yourself the following questions: Is it true that I don’t get enough sleep at night? Is what I’m consuming correct? What am I doing to deal with my anxiety? These answers will aid you and your doctor in determining what you need to do to enhance your cognitive function.
Popular nootropics and their uses
If you’re still thinking about taking a nootropic, bear in mind that many of the ones available online contain a combination of chemicals and adaptogenic herbs. The most popular nootropic supplements are listed below:
- Ashwagandha is a famous Ayurvedic adaptogen that is claimed to help with stress relief and memory enhancement. There’s some evidence that ashwagandha can assist with anxiety as well.
- Another Ayurvedic medicine, Bacopa monnieri extract, has been proven to increase memory and recall speed. Ginseng and bacopa monnieri were shown to be equally effective as prescription modafinil in one study.
- Ginkgo biloba has been marketed as a supplement that can assist people with dementia enhance their cognitive performance, but there isn’t enough evidence to back up these claims. Doctors and health professionals generally do not suggest it for enhancing memory.
- Green tea’s L-theanine and caffeine may aid enhance attention and brain function over time, but additional human research are needed to back up these claims.
- Creatine, which is best known as a protein powder, has been proven to aid enhance cognitive performance in elderly adults when combined with other nutrients.
- In healthy young adults, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, have been proven to improve memory and response speed. When Brains Collide author Michael Lewis, MD, says that the current diet has an imbalance of inflammatory omega-6s vs anti-inflammatory omega-3s. More omega-3s in the diet can assist to promote brain function by lowering inflammation.