Nootropics are also referred to as memory enhancers, cognitive enhancers, smart drugs, neuro enhancers, and intelligence enhancers. They are supplements, nutraceuticals, functional foods, and drugs used to improve at least one aspect of mental function. You know those television dramas that sometimes show college students or those in ivy-league prep schools taking drugs to help them stay mentally focused and allowing them to study longer and test better. That’s what we’re talking about here.
Before we go further, please remember that most of these have not gone through extensive testing and may or may not actually work for the general population. Some of these are used routinely for the treatment of ADHD issues, helping those who suffer think clearer, and remain focused for longer, that does not automatically translate to doing the same thing for someone who does not have the same problems. Although those who are fans, swear they don’t have the mental cloudiness as much when they use them.
But the other problem with not having had enough tests done on most nootropics is we also don’t know if there may be long-term side effects or damage. Some of the drugs or supplements used are prescription stimulants including methylphenidate and dimethylamylamine are used by students, reports show 5-35% of college students use diverted ADHD stimulants. Other drugs marketed as dietary supplements, at least in the U.S., can only be marketed as such if manufacturers show the supplement is manufactured safely and is generally recognized as being safe. They cannot make any claims that said supplement treats or prevents diseases or other conditions.
Onnit manufactures one of the primary nootropics being used, Alpha BRAIN. They refer to two double-blind controlled trials performed at Boston Center for Memory. They studied 60+ people, the one group took Alpha Brain for 45 days and according to the test showed “significant improvement in the areas of executive function, verbal memory, and processing speed.” The group receiving the supplements also showed a much higher level of remembering a long list of words than those receiving the placebos. Data from this study was accepted for presentation at the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
In addition to the test of Alpha Brain, various compounds found in the supplement have shown in prior studies to have cognitive benefits.
Another test was run with 80+ people, and the findings were approximately the same on all counts. Some of the participants in these trials also joined a group where brain waves and processing speeds measured using an EEG. Though the participant numbers were smaller, those receiving Alpha BRAIN showed much higher frequency and focus even when they were calm and resting with their eyes closed. So even though low levels of stimulants are used in such drugs, focus, clear thought and calm seem to all function together.
Even though each person may respond differently to Alpha BRAIN, those who report a positive outcome may have to vary the dosage somewhat and use it for several days before noticing an impact. But tests showed that with most of those who received the supplement, they responded favorably after just one dose.
From a marketing and PR perspective, Onnit has a catchy name implying those who use their supplements will be “on it.” But they have also funded tests and shared the results and outcomes. When a company can “prove” their claims, it does a lot for those looking for a product. They must be doing a good job of both marketing and making their products since reviews on their site are highly positive. This may or may not work for you, but most people who try it seem to feel it’s worth the money.