One of the predicted dietary trends for 2020 is nootropics. Nootropics first arrived in the supplement industry as a way to allegedly enhance cognitive function. The lack of regulation for supplements and over-hyped claims online may make some of us wary of nootropics or think they sound too good to be true. So… let’s dig into what nootropics are, the state of research behind them, and how you can best add them to your wellness regimen.
Nootropic supplements are simply vitamins, herbals, and caffeine or other stimulants. The goal of nootropics is to adjust a metabolic or nutritional facet of brain function, perhaps one that involves memory or attention. Supplements that improve memory, attention, and cognition are gaining in popularity not just among those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia but among healthy adults as well.
Prescription nootropics are also available. Examples would be a stimulant medication for ADHD or donepezil for Alzheimer’s disease. Prescription nootropics are mainly stimulants which for many work in the short-term but can have some serious side effects.
Overall, the research on nootropics is mixed. Some supplements show potential for improving brain function and others come up flat. Below is an overview of some of the most popular and researched items marketed as nootropics.
Gingko biloba: Commonly used in extract form for treating Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other age-related mental decline. Gingko may produce modest cognitive improvements, but the research is inconclusive. Newer studies suggest that the benefits may come from gingko’s anti-inflammatory effects.
Ginseng: While again, the results on the impact of ginseng is conflicting, there is some clinical evidence that ginseng can improve cognitive function in young and middle-aged adults and seniors.
Rosemary: Just the smell of rosemary has been shown in some small studies to improve mood and have positive effects on the nervous system. Participants reported feeling more alert and content. The active compound in rosemary, diterpenes, are thought to benefit overall cognition and possibly improve Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Turmeric: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is thought to be a neuroprotective antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and has been reported to boost mood. These benefits have been particularly seen in people with cognitive decline, dementia, or other mood disorders. It is recommended to use turmeric as a spice in the diet rather than via supplements. Current evidence is mixed to really determine if turmeric as a supplement is effective for boosting cognition.
Coffee and Tea: The caffeine in coffee and tea is a natural stimulant that has been proven to help improve thinking, short-term memory, and learning. Green tea contains both caffeine and L-theanine which has been reported to help you multitask better.
Adding rosemary, turmeric, coffee and tea to your meals and snacks is a great way to add nootropics to your diet. It is hard for supplements to match the benefits that come along with eating real food. By incorporating herbs and drinking coffee and tea, you also eliminate many of the risk of interactions with other medications or side effects from a supplement. As with any supplement, it is best to talk with your doctor prior to adding a nootropic supplement to your daily regimen.
One thing research does agree on is that brain function depends on good blood flow. Following a low sodium diet, limiting alcohol, doing regular physical activity, getting quality sleep, and reducing stress are key to a good brain health. A healthy body = A healthy brain!
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