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September 28, 2020

Feeling a little fuzzy-brained lately? Many people swear by supplements to support the health and function of their brain. Maybe you’ve wanted to try them but are a little nervous about how your body will react. To help you make a more informed decision, we polled a panel of professionals and asked them to share their thoughts on the effects of these supplements.

Lisa Richards

Lisa Richards

Lisa Richards is a nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet. She has been featured on Today, US News, Women’s Health magazine, Huffington Post, Healthline, the San Francisco Chronicle, Reader’s Digest, Lifehack, Insider, and Well+Good among others.

Mental clarity

Supplements designed specifically with the brain in mind are referred to as Nootropics. This fairly new classification of supplements has become popular in the health industry because it offers a unique benefit specific to the brain. Many supplements support brain health as a beneficial by-product, but Nootropics target the health of the brain.

Anyone taking a brain supplement should expect to see greater long-term benefits over the short-term, but some immediate benefits should be expected. Improved mental clarity, a more stable mood, and better short-term memory are all brain supplement benefits that should be expected within days to weeks after starting the regimen.

Brad Dunlap

Brad Dunlap

Brad Dunlap is the Operations Manager for Best Price Nutrition, which is a supplement retailer that’s been around for 20 years. Brad has been with the company for three years but has been heavily informed in the nootropics (“brain supplements”) category for quite some time. Brad has about 10 years of experience in the health/nutrition field.

Give you a little extra edge

Most people begin their dive into “brain supplements” when they need to cram for a test, get focused at work, or have tasks that they just don’t seem to be totally ON for. Most people know of prescriptions like Ritalin or Adderall, but not everyone wants to take the leap to such intense stimulants that can have pretty bad side effects.

Nootropics are a category of supplements that help your brain function more efficiently. They’ll either increase the levels of acetylcholine in your brain, which is the primary neurotransmitter. The general thought is that an increase of this will, in turn, speed up your thought process and memory retention.

There are quite a lot of studies out there to back this up as well. There are also ingredients, such as Lion’s Mane, that increase the NGF (neurotropic growth factor) in your brain that actually make more connections between your neurons! This is incredibly rare and previously was thought of to be impossible.

So, what can you expect when you take these ingredients/products? Let me start by saying that you won’t feel an immediate rush of motivation and intelligence and memories that you forgot 15 years ago. These things will help you get that little extra edge that we all need to optimize our thinking and focus. Many people will pair a good nootropic stack with a little bit of caffeine or another mild stimulant to “jump-start” the process. Caffeine is great at getting you focused and energized. The nootropics will prolong the effect and more so turn that energy into focus.

This is such a large topic with so many different products that it’s hard to say exactly what you’ll feel, but you need to manage your expectations. This isn’t like the movie “Limitless” with Bradley Cooper. This is more like giving your brain an extra 15-20% working capacity to further enhance your own cognition. There’s a ton of great blends of ingredients out there that you can try out to see if this is something that’s for you. Many of the ingredients work off the first dose, but some take quite a while (1-2 months).

If you’re not wanting to get on some type of ADHD medication or depend on tons of caffeine every day, then nootropics could be a fantastic way for a lot of people out there to give their brain the ingredients it needs to work optimally. We take vitamins and fish oil and protein for our bones, joints, and muscles, but there’s a whole world of products out there solely dedicated to our brains.

Rex Freiberger

Rex Freiberger

Rex Freiberger, CEO, Discuss Diets.

Take some time to build up

It's important to realize there are few regulations on brain-boosting over-the-counter medications. This means little conclusive, peer-reviewed research has been done. That doesn't mean they don't work, but you should take care when researching just how effective they are. Keep your expectations appropriately measured, and know that it will take some time for supplements to build up in your system.

The body isn't great at absorbing through supplements. Much of what we ingest is converted to waste, not stored in the body for use by the cells. This includes the most popular brain supplements. Because of this, it takes a minimum of 6 months usually to build up enough in your system to see a noticeable effect.

Trista Best

Trista Best

Trista Best is a Registered Dietitian at Balance One Supplements, Environmental Health Specialist, and Adjunct Nutrition Professor.

Long-term and short-term benefits.

Brain supplements are somewhat new to the mainstream supplement industry. They are specifically designed to benefit the brain's health and function. Their purpose is primarily for long-term brain health, but there are some short-term benefits that can be expected as well. Some immediate benefits that should be expected include improved focus, a slight increase in energy, better sleep, and modest mood enhancement.

Giuseppe Aragona

Dr. Giuseppe Aragona

Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, General Practitioner at prescriptiondoctor.com

Placebo effect

The basic truth is that because brain supplements are sold over the counter with a lack of regulation, there is no actual evidence base to support brain supplements [bringing] any benefit to you if you do decide to take them. Despite many people vouching for their effectiveness, with no actual full or official study to show proof or support of what they are capable of, what many people could be experiencing is a simple placebo effect where your brain is working better because you believe it is working better. This isn’t to say they don’t work, but with minimal research, no proper information can be given to say what you should truly expect to happen.

John Frigo

John Frigo, I’m the Digital Marketing Lead with Best Price Nutrition.

A tingling sensation

In terms of what to expect if you take a brain supplement, some brain supplements will be somewhat un-noticeable. You’re not going to feel a drug-like effect and you're not going to feel an immediate effect, it’s more a slightly improved memory or cognition over time. Other brain supplements, however, provide a noticeable effect. The best way I can explain it is either a feeling of clarity or, in some cases, I’ll even almost feel as if little fingers are massaging my brain or a tingling sensation.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.

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