What if you could make yourself smarter with an over-the-counter drug? Several smart drugs (nootropics) sold online and in nutrition stores claim to do just that and the social media and online forum users are constantly talking about numerous benefits of nootropics. These pills are often marketed as an alternative to Adderall, which is a prescription medication generally used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD). These supplements for brain are now made combining herbs, vitamins, and minerals to boost your brain and memory power.
Benefits of Nootropics
Nootropics benefits include the slowdown the aging of the brain and other such benefits as:
- Certain nootropics can raise the brain acetylcholine levels whereas acetylcholine is the memory chemical that normally declines as you get older
- They can improve blood flow to the brain so that more oxygen is generated and more nutrients are provided to all the brain cells
- Nootropics help reduce brain inflammation and improve nerve impulse transmission (the electrical conduction of nerve impulses inside the brain to communicate with each other since the brain is an electrical organ)
- Nootropics can maintain the fluidity of the nerve cells so they don’t become hardened, rigid, and they don’t stop functioning
- There are certain vitamins and supplements that can actually slow down and even prevent the atrophy or the shrinking of the brain that occurs in all of us after the age of 60.
After discussing the common benefits of nootropics, let me now tell you the names of those effective vitamins and how they are responsible for the good health of your brain.
Key Vitamins and Herbs
1. B Vitamins
Certain B vitamins like folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 at specific dosages have shown to slow down the atrophy of the brain that occurs as you get older. B vitamins are also necessary to produce brain chemicals that are required to prevent depression and to keep your moods stable.
2. Vitamin E
This antioxidant helps prevent free radical damage in the brain. Studies have shown that in people with Alzheimer’s disease, if they take high doses of vitamin E at specific levels, this can actually slow down the progression of the disease. Vitamin E is best for the people who use the Alzheimer’s drugs in conjunction with high doses of the antioxidant vitamin E.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, increase nerve conduction and at an experimental level, they also helped block the formation of what’s called the beta-amyloid plaque, which is a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s. It has been found that people with more omega-3 fatty acids in their blood and brain have much-reduced risk to the Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Herbal Agents
CDP choline, Bacopa Monnieri, and phosphatidylserine are some of the herbal agents that can raise the acetylcholine levels in the brain. Taking a supplement that has a nice combination of all these agents is really important for people aged 55 and older. But it is also necessary for you to know the right dosages and standardized grades of herbs for brain supplements.
It is true that vitamins can make a big difference when it comes to preventing and tackling memory loss, dementia, and even the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This is important because Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the USA. The consumption of these vitamins and herbs is also essential because after the age of 55, the brain stops making enough amounts of the memory chemical named Acetylcholine, and we all start to suffer memory loss unless we do something proactive about it. Also, after the age of 60, the brain starts to shrink by 1% to 2% every year.
Factors Related to Brain Damage
But the question is, what happens inside the brain that leads to such cognitive disorders as memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease? Before answering that question, you need to first understand what happens inside your brain throughout your lifetime. There are certain things that occur in the brain due to the aging process itself and your diet and lifestyle also have a role to play here. These lifestyle factors combined with aging factors could either increase your risk for these problems or mitigate it. The following factors generally lead to such disorders and they all are sort of intertwined with each other.
Free radicals are one of the major contributing factors to memory loss. The brain metabolically is very active and it needs a lot of energy, which is produced with the help of oxygen. As a result, it can consume up to 20 percent of the body’s oxygen at any given time. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to it as oxygen generates free radicals.
For instance, take an apple, cut it in half and expose it to oxygen in the air. Soon you will notice that it has turned brown and will start to rot. The same thing happens to the brain if it’s exposed to a lot of oxygen day after day. The brain cells get damaged from this corrosive effect, eventually leading to damaged nerve cells to the point where they can no longer function at all.
The longer you live, the more free radical damage you will have that may result in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Free radical damage may also cause multiple sclerosis (MS) and some other neurodegenerative diseases.
As you get older, your brain stops making the optimal amount of the memory chemical called acetylcholine. Also, to complicate things further your brain no longer absorbs choline as it once did when you were younger.
In 2011, a study conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that if you can get more choline into your brain, you will have a better chance of maintaining a better memory throughout your lifetime.
You can have brain inflammation because of your unhealthy diet that has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. You can also clog up the arteries in your brain the same way you can clog up the arteries in your heart. Fat and cholesterol are mainly responsible for such conditions that may lead to blockage of blood flow to nerve cells. If these cells can no longer receive the key nutrients and oxygen they need, they will stop functioning and eventually die. This type of clogging of the blood vessel that may result in vascular dementia.
You know that people with high blood sugar levels, overweight, and out of shape are prone to being diabetic. All those individuals who have blood sugar irregularities and higher insulin levels are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s as they get older than a non-diabetic who’s fit and healthy. Why? The high sugar and insulin levels are affected by a sort of sugar coating proteins in the brain that causes glycosylation. These sugar proteins are responsible for other brain damages but they are mainly linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Nootropics Side Effects
Ginkgo biloba, vinpocetine, and DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol) are some of the common compounds of nootropics that have actually shown to have some harmful effects. However, the biggest concern is related to ginkgo biloba and vinpocetine because they may cause bleeding disorders. You should know what you’re taking and you also have to know that certain nutrition and lifestyle practices are very important for the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Moreover, nootropics are cognitive enhancers that improve your memory and creativity, and you feel more awake as it works as a CNS (central nervous system) stimulant. There is also a side effect to it, you will feel great when you will start taking them and you will feel down when you will stop taking them. So, over time, you would take more and more of these stimulants to feel great, but you would also feel more down along the way to meet the demand of nootropics for your brain. There is a possibility that you could become totally dependent on these pills sooner or later.
If you think that you are having any type of cognitive or memory disorders I would rather recommend that you –
- Take nootropics that come with B vitamins like vitamin B1, B6, B12, nutritional yeast, and DHA fats like omega-3 that are found in fish oil
- Get more sleep as a good night’s sleep can enhance your cognitive function to a great extent
- Try intermittent fasting as this is an effective practice for improving cognitive function. There are certain genes in your body that kick in when you are intermittent fasting that help you grow more brain cells
- Are balancing between a high and low carb diet if you have hippocampal insulin resistance because too many or too low carbs may lead to brain fog and mood swings
- Walk every morning for half an hour because regular exercise helps improve your cognitive function
So, are nootropics safe? Most brain nootropics are currently being sold without any FDA approval under categories like “dietary supplements” or “research chemicals,” because there haven’t been enough conclusive research that proves their effectiveness. As a result, there’s not much accountability for how these nootropics are made and in what dosages. They can’t be guaranteed safe, which is kind of dangerous when you’re messing with your brain chemistry.
For instance, if you flood your brain with too much glutamate signaling and your neurons get overstimulated, this can lead to pretty bad side effects like cell death and even seizures. Plus, any kind of stimulant, which is what many nootropics are, can be addictive and may cause major withdrawal symptoms and depression if used inappropriately.
Also, some of these drugs may show positive effects on cognition and memory in the short term, but there is no proof of their long-term benefits. Living a healthy lifestyle, as well as taking the best nootropics and vitamins out there would be the best choice to maintain a healthy brain.