Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food

Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. A very insightful read from Harvard Health Publishing by Eva Selhub:

Think about it. Your brain is always “on.” It takes care of your thoughts and movements, your breathing and heartbeat, your senses — it works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat — and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.

Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress — the “waste” (free radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells.

Unfortunately, just like an expensive car, your brain can be damaged if you ingest anything other than premium fuel. If substances from “low-premium” fuel (such as what you get from processed or refined foods) get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.

It makes sense. If your brain is deprived of good-quality nutrition, or if free radicals or damaging inflammatory cells are circulating within the brain’s enclosed space, further contributing to brain tissue injury, consequences are to be expected. What’s interesting is that for many years, the medical field did not fully acknowledge the connection between mood and food.

Today, fortunately, the burgeoning field of nutritional psychiatry is finding there are many consequences and correlations between not only what you eat, how you feel, and how you ultimately behave, but also the kinds of bacteria that live in your gut.

How the foods you eat affect how you feel

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. What’s more, the function of these neurons — and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin — is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria play an essential role in your health. They protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria; they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food; and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.

Studies have shown that when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria), their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics. Other studies have compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical “Western” diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet. Scientists account for this difference because these traditional diets tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood, and to contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. They are also void of processed and refined foods and sugars, which are staples of the “Western” dietary pattern. In addition, many of these unprocessed foods are fermented, and therefore act as natural probiotics. Fermentation uses bacteria and yeast to convert sugar in food to carbon dioxide, alcohol, and lactic acid. It is used to protect food from spoiling and can add a pleasant taste and texture.

This may sound implausible to you, but the notion that good bacteria not only influence what your gut digests and absorbs, but that they also affect the degree of inflammation throughout your body, as well as your mood and energy level, is gaining traction among researchers. The results so far have been quite amazing.

What this mean for you

Start paying attention to how eating different foods makes you feel — not just in the moment, but the next day. Try eating a “clean” diet for two to three weeks — that means cutting out all processed foods and sugar. Add fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, or kombucha. You also might want to try going dairy-free — and some people even feel that they feel better when their diets are grain-free. See how you feel. Then slowly introduce foods back into your diet, one by one, and see how you feel.

When my patients “go clean,” they cannot believe how much better they feel both physically and emotionally, and how much worse they then feel when they reintroduce the foods that are known to enhance inflammation. Give it a try!

For more information on this topic, please see: Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry, Sarris J, et al. Lancet Psychiatry. 2015

The field of Nutritional Psychiatry is relatively new, however there are observational data regarding the association between diet quality and mental health across countries, cultures and age groups – depression in particular. Here are links to some systematic reviews and meta-analyses:

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/99/1/181.long

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23720230

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4167107/

There are also now two interventions suggesting that dietary improvement can prevent depression:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3848350/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4050338/

Diet during early life is also linked to mental health outcomes in children (very important from public health perspective):

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24074470

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25524365

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23541912

Extensive animal data show that dietary manipulation affects brain plasticity and there are now data from humans to suggest the same:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4563885/

Finally, while there are yet to be published RCTs testing dietary improvement as a treatment strategy for depression, the first of these is underway and results will be published within six months:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3636120/

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Power Foods for the Brain

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A brilliant talk by Dr. Neal Barnard that is very important and useful for everyone and anyone. In his TEDx talk, Dr. Barnard talks about power foods for the brain, saying:

On February 8, 2012, my father passed away.

The truth is that was the day his heart stopped beating.

For all intents and purposes, my father had died years earlier. It started with memory lapses, and as time went on, his memory failed more and more, and it got to the point where he didn’t know his own kids who came in to see him.

His personality changed, and his ability to take care of himself was completely gone. And… If you could make a list of all the things that could ever happen to you, the very last thing on your list, at the very bottom of the list, the thing you want the least is Alzheimer’s disease, because when you lose your memory, you lose everything. You lose everyone who ever mattered to you.

If you could look into the brain of a person who has this disease, what you see is, between the brain cells are these unusual looking structures. Beta-amyloid protein comes out of the cells, and it accumulates in these little meatball-like structures that are in front of you, on a microscopic slide. They shouldn’t be there, and they are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. This disease affects about half of Americans by their mid-80s.

You could say to your doctor, “OK, I don’t want that. What can I do to stop that?” Your doctor will say, “Well, its old age and it’s genetics.” There’s a gene – it’s called the APOE-[epsilon]4 allele. If you have this gene from one parent, your risk is tripled;

if you got it from both parents, your risk is 10 to 15 times higher than it was before.

What’s the answer? Get new parents? No, I don’t think so. That’s not it. So, I’m sorry: it’s old age, it’s genes, period, that’s it; there’s not a darn thing you can do just wait for it to happen. Or maybe not. In Chicago, researchers started something called the Chicago Health and Ageing Project.

What they did was they looked at what people in Chicago were eating. They did very careful dietary records in hundreds and hundreds of people, and then they started to see who, as the years go by, stayed mentally clear, and who developed dementia.

The first thing they keyed in on was something that I knew about as a kid growing up in Fargo, North Dakota – My mom had five kids, we would run down to the kitchen to the smell of bacon.

My mom would take a fork, and she’d stick it into the frying pan and pull the hot bacon strips out and put them on a paper towel to cool down, and when all the bacon was out of the pan, she would carefully lift up that hot pan and pour the grease into a jar to save it – that’s good bacon grease, you don’t want to lose that!

My mother would take that jar, and she would put it not in the refrigerator but she’d put it on the shelf, because my mother knew that as bacon grease cools down, what happens to it? It solidifies. And the fact that it’s solid at room temperature is a sign that bacon grease is loaded with saturated fat, bad fat.

We’ve known for a long time that that raises cholesterol, and there’s a lot of in bacon grease. And by the way, the next day, she’d spoon it back into the frying pan and fry eggs in it; it’s amazing any of her children lived to adulthood. That’s the way we lived.

The number one source of saturated fat is actually not bacon, it’s dairy products, cheese, and milk, and so forth; and meat is number two. In Chicago, some people ate relatively little saturated fat, around 13 grams a day, and others ate about twice that much, and the researchers just looked at who developed Alzheimer’s disease. And can I show you the figures? Here’s the low group, and there is the high group. In other words, if you are avoiding the bad fat, your risk was pretty low, but if you were tucking into the cheese and the bacon strips, your risk was two, three, or more-fold higher.

Then they looked not just at saturated fat, they looked at the fat that’s in doughnuts and pastries; you know what that is, that’s trans fats you’ll see on the labels. They found the very same pattern in there, too.

So, the people who tended to avoid the saturated fat and the trans fats, wanted to avoid them for cholesterol and heart disease reasons, but they also seem to affect the brain. Then researchers in Finland said, “Wait a minute, let’s go further.”

There is a condition we call mild cognitive impairment. You’re still yourself – you’re managing your checkbook, you’re driving, your friends know it’s you – but you’re having mental lapses, especially for names and for words.

They brought in over 1,000 adults, they were 50 years old, and they looked at their diets. Then, as time went on, they looked to see who developed mild cognitive impairment.

Some of these people ate relatively little fat, some people ate a fair amount, and then they looked at whose memory started to fail.

They found exactly the same pattern. In other words, it’s not just, “Will I get Alzheimer’s disease?” but, “Will I just have old age memory problems?”

Well, what about that gene, that APOE-[epsilon]4 allele the one that condemns you to Alzheimer’s disease?

Well, they then redid the study, and they focused only on those people, and some of these people ate relatively little fat, some people ate more, and– …Exactly the same.

In other words, if you are avoiding the bad fats, even if you have the gene, your risk of developing memory problems was cut by 80%. And this is my most important point: genes are not destiny. Let’s take another look in those plaques.

We know there’s beta-amyloid protein, but there’s also iron and copper. Metals in my brain? That’s right, there are metals in foods, and they get into the brain. Now think about this: I have a cast-iron pan, and we had a backyard barbecue, and a week later, I remember, “Oh… I left my frying pan on the picnic table, and it rained last week.” What happened to my pan? It rusted, and that rust is oxidation.

Or you take a shiny new penny, and does it stay shiny forever? No, it oxidizes too. Well, iron and copper oxidize in your body, and as they do that, they cause the production of what are called free radicals.

You’ve heard of free radicals: free radicals are molecules that are swimming around in your bloodstream, and they get into the brain, and they act like sparks that seam through the connections between one cell and the next.

So, how is this happening? Where am I getting all this iron? Where am I getting all this copper?

How can that be? How many people have a cast iron pan? Let me see hands. If that’s your once a month pan, I’m going to say, “Who cares?” But if it’s every single day, you’re getting the iron into your food, and it’s more iron than your body needs. Or copper pipes. Who has copper pipes?

That water sits in the copper pipes all night long, and in the morning it goes into the coffee maker, and you’re drinking that copper, you get more than you need, and it starts producing these free radicals that go to the brain. If you’re a meat eater, of especially liver, there’s iron and copper in those foods too.

And we used to think, “Isn’t that great?” until we realized iron is a double-edged sword. You need a little bit, but if you have too much, it becomes toxic. Vitamins. Vitamin manufacturers put in vitamin A, and the B vitamins, and vitamin C, and vitamin D.

And then they throw in iron and copper, thinking, “Well, you need these,” not recognizing you’re already getting enough in foods, and if they add it to your supplement, you are getting too much. OK, so what am I saying?

What I’m saying is aside from the fact that the saturated fat and the trans fats will increase our risk, these metals will, too, and they are causing sparks to form in the brain, free radicals to form that seam through the connections. And if that’s the case, then I need a fire extinguisher. And we have one, and it’s called vitamin E. Vitamin E is in spinach, and it’s in mangoes, and it’s especially in nuts and seeds.

And in Chicago, some people eat a little bit of it, and some people eat a lot of it, and the beauty of this is vitamin E is an antioxidant: it knocks out free radicals. So, if what I’m saying is true, then the people in Chicago who ate only a little bit of vitamin E would be at much higher risk than people who ate a lot, and that’s exactly what the research showed.

People getting eight milligrams a day of vitamin E cut their risk of Alzheimer’s by about half compared to people getting less than that.

Hmm, OK, how do I get that?

It’s very, very easy: run to the store and just buy a bottle of vitamin E pills.

No, I don’t think so, and here’s why not.

Nature has eight forms of vitamin E. It’s built into nuts and into seeds, but if I put it into my supplement pill, I can legally call it vitamin E if it has only one form. And if you’re eating too much of one form of vitamin E, it reduces your absorption of all the others. So, you want to get it from food; that’s the form that nature has designed for us, and that’s the form that we’ve evolved with.

We can go a step further. Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you. How much should I have? If I put some nuts or seeds into the palm of my hand, by the time it hits your fingers, that’s just one ounce, and that’s about five milligrams of vitamin E, right there. The trick is: don’t eat it; because if you do, you know what happens. If you have those diced salty almonds, and you’ve eaten them: you fill your hand again, and then you eat it again.

There’s something about salty cashews and almonds, is it just me? There’s something about them, they’re a little bit addicting in some way. So, don’t do that, that’s going to be way more than you need. The answer is pour them into your hand, and then crumble them up, and put them on your salad, or put them on your oatmeal, or on your pancakes, or something. Use them as a flavoring not as a snack food, then you’re going to be OK. All right, researchers at the University of Cincinnati went one step further.

Not just saturated fat, not just trans fats, not just vitamin E, but they said, “What about color?” Look at blueberries and grapes: that color that they have is dramatic. And the colors of blueberries aren’t just there to make them pretty, those are called anthocyanins. They brought in a group of individuals into a research study: average age: 78, and everyone was already having memory problems. And what they asked them to do was to have grape juice, a pint a day.

A cup in the morning, a cup at night. Three months later, they tested everyone, and their memory was better, and their recall was better. Three months? That sounds too easy. How can that be? Well, think about it: a grape has a rough life.

A grape has to sit on the vine, all day long under the sun, and exposed to the elements, and it has no protection. Or does it? That purple color, those anthocyanins happen to be powerful antioxidants, just like vitamin E, but they’re the grape form, and if you consume them, they go into your bloodstream.

And if that’s true, it doesn’t have to be grapes, it could be anything that has that color. Like blueberries. So, back into the laboratory: a new group of patients, they came in, they all had memory problems. And three months on blueberry juice,

Their memory was better, their recall was better. Now, the moral of the story is not to have grapes and blueberries, and blueberry juice, and grape juice.

No, the answer is color.

If you look at the colorful foods, there’s an important lesson there for us. You walk into the grocery store, and from a hundred feet away, looking at the produce department, you can recognize beta-carotene, lycopene, anthocyanins.

Your retina can detect them because that’s the orange color of a carrot, or the red color of a tomato, or the purple color of a grape. And the brain also tells you they’re pretty, they’re attractive, you can recognize antioxidants, you’re drawn to them. So, back in 2009, my organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, went to the Department of Agriculture. We said, “This is important. Let’s throw out the pyramid.”

The pyramid was a nice shape, but it had a meat group, and it had a dairy group, despite the fact that people who don’t eat meat or dairy products happened to be healthier than people who eat them.

And also, who eats off a pyramid anyway? We eat off a plate. So, we devised a plate that said fruits, and grains, and legumes – that’s the bean group – and vegetables, those should be the staples. Well, we gave this to the USDA in 2009, and we didn’t hear back from them. So, in 2011, we sued the federal government, the Physicians Committee filed a lawsuit against the USDA, simply to compel response.

And did you see what the US government came out with in 2011? I’m not taking any credit for this, but this is now US government policy, it’s called MyPlate, and it does look in some way similar to what we’d sent them a couple of years earlier.

Fruits, and grains, and vegetables, and they have this thing called ‘the protein group.’ The protein group could be meat, but it could be beans, or tofu, or nuts, or anything that’s high in protein, it doesn’t have to be meat. In fact, there is no meat group anymore in federal guidelines.

There’s a dairy group there, but to their credit, soy milk counts. So, things are improving. So far, what we’ve talked about is getting away from the saturated fats, that’s in cheese, and bacon, and meats; getting away from the trans fats and snack foods; you’re having the vitamin E and the colorful foods; and there’s one more step. It’s not all food, there’s something to say about exercise.

At the University of Illinois, researchers brought in a large group of adults, 120 of them, and they said, a brisk walk, three times a week. After a year, everyone went into the laboratory for a brain scan. They measured the hippocampus which is at the center of the brain, and it’s the seat of memory: it decides what should be let through into memory, and what should not be let through. It turned out that this organ, which is gradually shrinking in older adults, suddenly, stopped shrinking.

The exercisers found that their hippocampus was a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger, it was as if time was going backwards: It reversed brain shrinkage, and on memory tests, they did substantially better.

So, I’ve devised my own exercise plan. I’d like to present it to you, I do this three times a week. Arrive at the airport as late as possible, carry massively heavy luggage, and just run for the plane.  At the University of Illinois they had their own ideas, and their idea was a little simpler. Do a ten-minute walk, and do it three times a week. And then, next week, let’s do a 15-minute walk, and the week after that, 20.

All they did was add five minutes a week until they got to 40 minutes.

And a 40-minute brisk walk – this is not a trudge, but it’s a good brisk walk – 40 minutes, three times a week is all you need to improve memory and reverse brain shrinkage. Very simple. What I would like to do is to go back in time, and I want to sit down with my dad, and I want to say, “Dad, I found out something really important. We can change our diet, we don’t really need that cheese and that bacon. There’s plenty of healthy things that we can eat. Let’s bring in the colorful vegetables and fruits, let’s make them part of our everyday fair.

Let’s lace up our sneakers, let’s exercise together.” It’s too late for him.

But it’s not too late for you. It’s not too late for me either, and if we take advantage of what we have now learned about how we can protect our brain, then perhaps, families will be able to stay together a little bit longer.

Thank you very much.

Dr. Barnard TEDx Talk

Dr. Barnard has led numerous research studies investigating the effects of diet on diabetes, body weight, and chronic pain, including a groundbreaking study of dietary interventions in type 2 diabetes, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Barnard has authored over 70 scientific publications as well as 17 books. As president of the Physicians Committee, Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research. He has hosted three PBS television programs on nutrition and health and is frequently called on by news programs to discuss issues related to nutrition and research. Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Dr. Barnard received his M.D. degree at the George Washington University School of Medicine and completed his residency at the same institution. He practiced at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York before returning to Washington to found the Physicians Committee.

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New Drug Hopes to Reverse Memory Loss

An experimental drug that bolsters ailing brain cells has raised hopes of a treatment for memory loss, poor decision making and other mental impairments that often strike in old age.

The drug could be taken as a daily pill by over-55s if clinical trials, which are expected to start within two years, show that the medicine is safe and effective at preventing memory lapses.

Tests in the lab showed that old animals had far better memory skills half an hour after receiving the drug. After two months on the treatment, brain cells which had shrunk in the animals had grown back, scientists found.

Etienne Sibille, at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said the treatment was aimed not only at the “normal” cognitive decline that leads to senior moments, but at memory loss and mental impairments that commonly afflict people with depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

If the drug did well in human trials, Sibille said it was possible that “anybody over the age of 55-60 who may be at risk of cognitive problems later on could benefit from this treatment”.

“Our findings have direct implications for poor cognition in normal ageing,” he said, with the drug potentially improving learning, memory, decision making and essential life planning. “But we see this deficiency across disorders from depression to schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.”

There are no medicines on the market that improve the sort of memory loss seen in old age and psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. But the Toronto researchers believe their drug can reverse failing memories by targeting specific cells involved in learning and memory, and rejuvenating them. The changes the drug brings about in the brain suggest it could prevent memory loss at the beginning of Alzheimer’s and potentially delay its onset.

Research on memory loss has shown that it is partly linked to levels of a neurotransmitter known as GABA. Its normal job is to slow down the rate at which neurons fire, effectively dampening down electrical “noise” in the brain. Lower this background noise and important signals in the brain can be processed more easily, or so the theory goes.

The new drug is a derivative of benzodiazepine, a family of medicines that includes the anti-anxiety pills Valium and Xanax. While Valium and Xanax have broad effects in the brain, the new drug is designed to target specific GABA “receptors” found on neurons in key parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, which are heavily involved in cognition.

Scientists tested the drug on mice in a maze and found that half an hour after receiving a single dose, old animals performed nearly as well as young mice. The drug also restored the performance of young mice whose memories had been temporarily impaired by the stress of being kept in a confined space.

“An old mouse will naturally perform at about 50-60% on this test. Its working memory is basically not working. But within 30 minutes of administration of the drug, their performance is back up to 80-90%, so almost at the level of a young mouse. We have a rapid reversal of age-related working memory deficit and that is exciting,” Sibille told the Guardian.

In the latest work, the Toronto team showed that brain cells which had shrunk in older mice grew back after two months of having the drug put in their drinking water. “We can actually grow the brain cells,” Sibille said.

“They tend to shrink with age and they shrink in neurodegenerative diseases. What we see is that the cells grow to a level that’s pretty close to that in young animals.”

The lab tests showed no benefit when the drug was given to healthy young animals, suggesting that it would not work like a cognitive enhancer and give healthy people superhuman memory skills. “It’s not a drug a student would take if they wanted to be smarter when they study for their exams,” Sibille said. The researchers submitted a patent on the drug on Wednesday before a talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington DC.

Scientists now hope to test the drug in humans, with the first trials expected to be in people with depression. When people are in remission from depression, those with poor memory and other mental impairments are often most likely to relapse, Sibille said.

“If we could somehow treat those deficits we could potentially have a major impact on the lifelong trajectory of the illness in those people. It would be a gamechanger in how we treat depression.”

sourceNootropics BlogHomepage


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FDA Approves Fasoracetam as ADHD Treatment

Fasoracetam Approved as ADHD Treatment

Remember all the notes following descriptions of Fasoracetam when it was first coming around as a “potential ADHD treatment”, but the FDA delaying approval, and being stuck at stage 3 trials for what seems like 20 years? Check this out. It seems to have finally received the FDA’s approval as a “non-stimulant ADHD Treatment”:

Jul. 19, 2018 9:34 AM ET
About: Aevi Genomic Medicine, … (GNMX)
By: Niloofer Shaikh, SA News Editor 

Aevi Genomic Medicine (GNMX) has received positive feedback from the FDA provisionally indicating that AEVI-004 is a novel co-crystal of lead drug AEVI-001 (fasoracetam) with enhanced physical and chemical properties.

FDA provisionally agreed existing AEVI-001 toxicology and pathology studies are acceptable to support clinical development with AEVI-004, with minimal preclinical bridging studies

AEVI-001 is an oral non-stimulant pan-selective activator/modulator of mGluRs for the potential treatment of ADHD and other glutamate receptor-linked neuropsychiatric disorders.

AEVI-004 is also an oral non-stimulant pan-selective activator/modulator of mGluRs, but with several distinct advantages over AEVI-001, including better stability and better manufacturability owing to a significantly higher melting point.

AEVI-004 is expected to have composition of matter patents extending to 2039 and should be listed as a novel drug substance in the FDA Orange Book.

Seeking Alpha


That is very interesting to hear. Pretty much what happened is that they formulated an “enhanced” version with fasoracetam being the lead drug and is said to be further improving the effects.

The FDA finally are convicned and now GNMX will be manufacturing this new bumped up Fasoracetam version, and will have composition patent “extending until 2039”.

I am curious to see how is this going to unfold. I am actually ADHD and have used Fasoracetam for a while to experiment and measure its effectiveness on me both for ADHD and GABA regulation. I haven’t seen tremendous effect but it was notable enough to be worthy of further examination.

Realization: I’ll be getting my Fasoracetam through insurance soon enough instead of paying for it!

Any thoughts on this?

10 Best Natural Nootropics of 2018

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To be honest, I was hesitating for quite some time about whether or not I should actually publish my retake this list of 10 best natural nootropics of 2018 mainly because it was an article written and published by the team of Nootropics Depot itself.

But once I allowed myself an open-minded approach, reading thoroughly, I started seeing a lot of sense in the list. By the time I read through it all, I had realized I have purchased 7 out of the ten items on the list.

And all those purchases were from ND, but none of which had been due to advertisements. Rather, they were based on my own choice and interest as I have placed multiple orders from Nootropics Depot over the past couple of years.

The more I read and analyze the content, the more I realize how it is indeed enlisting some of what I think is amongst the best natural nootropics of…ever.

The team at Nootropics Depot managed to build a brand that stands out from any other manufacturer, and that is something, I can almost guarantee, is acknowledged worldwide. I liked their brand upon discovering the website for the first time, I liked it more after receiving my first box of nootropics traveling all the way from Arizona to Dubai, and I maintained the same level of admiration even after having my ShareASale application declined. If anything, I am now able to see the bigger picture as well as to what led it to the undeniably successful level they’re operating at today.

To compile the list, they use customer data to analyze product popularity, customer feedback, scientific research, as well as their own team’s expertise. In other words, you can safely say that the list was based on the nootropic community coexisting online on reddit’ nootropics, longevity, and whatever platform where nootropics are in discussion, opinions forming, knowledge growing, and endless research shares.

The list is in no particular order; therefore, I will rearrange it to best of my knowledge and experience, and push the 3 I haven’t had the chance to try to the bottom of the list for this apparent reason. And possibly to further push them to my cart from there.

These are the top 10 Best Natural Nootropics in 2018 according to ND, and in no specific order:

10 Best Natural Nootropics

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extract (Hericium Erinaceus)

It didn’t take me more than two(hundred) seconds to figure out whether Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extract or the next nootropic would make the #1 best natural nootropic of 2018. I knew the answer immediately when I compared it to the rest and realized that I had not run out of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extract (specifically, ND’s) since the very first time I bought it. This has got to give it quite the credit. Especially when knowing there is no psychedelic or psychostimulant effect of supplementing with it, although that is to some degree debatable.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom is a unique, down-to-definition nootropic. It is one of the few nootropics I know of that support, as well as promote neurogenesis. And that means exactly just what it implies: it is the process by which neurons are generated from neural stem cells and progenitor cells, nootropically speaking.In other words, it supports the regeneration and birth of neurons within the brain — a discovery that led to most of the speculation about it today.

It is also the main reason why I had been taking it throughout the past year. Secondary to that comes a collection of benefits such as enhanced neuroplasticity, improving depression, cognitive function, antioxidant, and the list goes on and on. You can read more in-depth about it in its respective page since it had earned one.

Cognizin Citicoline

Again I notice that it didn’t take me long to decide whether Citicoline would rank at number two or three given the significant benefits I have personally experienced from both nootropics, as well as from those going to appear later in the list. I had used Citicoline for about six months before I decided to “upgrade” to the better choline source known as Alpha-GPC. I then started using Alpha-GPC as the replacement as my choline source for nearly a year – and still doing so today, taking 300mg per day, and occasionally might increase to 600 mg as desired.

However, I had already decided a while ago that once my large (120ct I believe) runs out, I am switching back to Cognizin Citicoline.
I was convinced to perceive the outcome of Alpha-GPC to win over that of Citicoline. But to my surprise, it turns out I much prefer and enjoy the benefits of Citicoline overall when comparing it to that of Alpha-GPC. But I wasn’t able to decide and tell until I had stopped supplementing with Citicoline for a while. Taking it after such a long and experimental break, upon taking Citicoline I felt as if I had finally put in the last piece of the missing puzzle. And by the way, turns out even that last piece doesn’t solve that puzzle of ours.

But if anything, citicoline will at least be a helping factor and will increase your chances of getting there, in comparison to other nootropics. Experienced users, especially the wiser, such as you and I (we deserve pride ok), already know about the phenomenon of racetam headaches. IF you are new to this, in short, the racetam class of nootropics, and possibly some of the most effective nootropics in the market as of now, are racetams.
They are fantastic for different conditions. Moving onto the next one of the list.

Bacopa Monnieri Extract

Bacopa Monnieri is one of the most interesting natural nootropics in my stack. The amount of studies and research on this flower is endless. Moreover, it’s another nootropic that has been in still is, in use today in Ayurvedic medicine. When it comes to something trusted and practiced in ayurvedic I almost instantly buy into it, I wouldn’t even have to see the facts, although I did, nevertheless.

Bacopa is known for its benefits on memory and secondly for its relaxing effect. “Sedating” some would say – which I only agree with if I had been awake for two days straight.

Most people use it once a day at 300mg, and ideally, results should be notable in about four weeks or so. I used it for a few months at 150mg per day, and for another few at 300mg per day, until I stopped due to the curiosity of trying the next nootropic, I found back then.

Today I rarely use it, but when I do, instead of 300mg I would take 700 mg in one dose for the calming and hippie peaceful vibe in puts me in. For which I agree on it being on this list. However, I feel I have to mention that I found it to be most effective at the lowest dose (I believe it’s around 150mg – I was taking it as one of the ingredients in Mindlab Pro). But I was consistent with a daily intake of it for way over 4-5 months. Next one on my hit list:

Ashwagandha KSM-66

I never realized how much of a natural gangster Ashwagandha sounds like when you add that KSM-66 next to it in the subheading.

Ashwagandha is a very effective adaptogen that people, again, take it on a daily basis and allow adaptation to it over time and is often spoken of as ‘that one natural nootropic that diminishes stress.

Ashwagandha works on the GABA neurotransmitter which is what results in stress and anxiety reduction.
It’s usually taken at 300mg once a day. I remember the first time taking ashwagandha I felt like I was in a bubblegum euphoric heaven without the bubblegum artificial plasticizing smell (which I like, btw).

I was amazed by how strong it had affected me, especially while knowing that my GABA receptors aren’t the easiest to poke and tweak after years of self-medicating with GABA supplements and medications. But that only happened on the very first time I took it. I’ve taken it many many times after but never felt as strong of an effect as the first time. It probably had a lot to do with my subconscious anticipation – I have to say.

I still have and take Ashwagandha every now and then, more often than not double the dose and take 600mg instead of 300mg, but I limit it to once or max twice a week. Reestablishing GABA relationship is not something I have on my mind….for the time being.

Longvida Curcumin Extract

To be honest, I haven’t quite noticed any measurable effects when I used to take curcumin, but I do believe the literature on it. Now after reading a bit more into it, I realize that it might have been the bioavailability of the brand that I had of curcumin, which I am gonna stop typing now, go to the kitchen, take a couple tablets and read the leaflet again – it had been over a year since I had last use it.

Hm. To my surprise, turns out I finished my first bottle and bought another one. I completely forgot about that. I got it from the Netherlands while in a rush going (late) after my flight – that’s why my brain probably did not process that scenario.

But if I had finished one and bought another, it must have been good….

Now curcumin extract is very popular and available in many different places and often for a low price depending on what you settle on when it comes to quality.

What intrigued me about Longvida is that they made it precisely to increase its bioavailability to the maximum. Curcumin’s bioavailability is “one of its most significant drawbacks.” Here’s what they had to say about it. I haven’t dived that deep into it to be in a place of forming or circulating my analysis.

“Longvida is a specialized extract of turmeric that addresses one of Curcumin’s most significant drawbacks: bioavailability.

On paper, the effects of Curcumin are fantastic. Unfortunately, various studies have come to the consensus that regular Curcumin does not absorb readily in the body. There have been multiple solutions to this problem, the most popular of which is by using a bioavailability enhancer from black pepper called Piperine. This seems to work reasonably well, but the permeation of Curcumin through the blood-brain barrier and into the brain is still relatively low with this combination of Curcumin and Piperine. Verdure Sciences figured out a way to put the Curcumin molecule into a solid lipid particle called an SLCP. The SLCP acts as a sort of micro-capsule which can transport Curcumin through the blood-brain barrier and into the brain. Due to this, Longvida is one of the few formulations of Curcumin that can exert a significant effect on our brains.

So why do we want Curcumin in our brains? To start, Curcumin has excellent oxidation and inflammation regulating effects in the brain, which help with overall brain health and cognitive function. Curcumin has also been shown to enhance DHA synthesis. This is beneficial as DHA makes up a large portion of our brain and it has been demonstrated that elevated levels of DHA can boost cognition. Curcumin also regulates glutamatergic function in the brain. This is important for keeping our brains in tip-top shape, especially during periods of high stress. As the cherry on top, Curcumin can enhance brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) significantly. BDNF is a primary regulator of neuroplasticity and cognition. By boosting BDNF levels, we can expect a significant boost in cognitive health support.”

They had me at BDNF.

PS: the brand I have is Solgar. It wasn’t precisely produced with a nootropical objective in mind.

Prima Purified Shilajit Extract

Now with Shilajit, quoting ND, its an “interesting natural substance. Shilajit oozes out of rocks high up in various mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas, during summer months. The current theory is that it is composed of humification products of various plants and mosses. This would explain its complex chemical makeup and the presence of various humic compounds such as fulvic acid. This also explains the often high heavy metal levels found in crude Shilajit that is widely available. This is because the rocks that Shilajit oozes out of can be significant sources of heavy metals.”

This sold it to me without really processing all of that. Today I noticed the second part of the description where it talks about how shilajit increases the bioavailability of CoQ10 which is one of my favorite nootropics. Therefore, I’m going to pause this section here and take my daily CoQ10 now with Shilajit, which I haven’t in a while. I will continue writing this once done with the rest of the list. As to personal experience with previous use, I wouldn’t add it on this list.

The science behind it sounds compelling and makes a lot of sense nevertheless. It explains that the most notable effects of Shilajit are cell rejuvenation, which in turn boosts overall cognitive function. That is supposed to be sent to our mitochondria, and by so promote healthy levels of oxidation in there. Thereby, the mitochondria produce more ATP, and ATP is one of the significant sources of energy for our cells. And that’s how Shilajit is enhancing cognition overall.

The more efficiently our mitochondria run, the more ATP they can produce. ATP is one of the primary energy sources for our cells, and thus by allowing our mitochondria to produce more ATP, Shilajit can enhance cell function. Similar to Creatine, this should boost overall brain function.”

Polygala Tenuifolia 20:1 Extract

This is one of the newer to the inventory I believe, so I haven’t had the chance to try it yet. Therefore I can’t share a personal opinion. According to Nootropic Depot though, Polygala is a serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.

“This mechanism of action results in calm focus and a significant increase in energy levels. It also helps support healthy stress levels. These effects are further enhanced by Polygala tenuifolia ability to enhance neuroplasticity.” then go further into explaining;

Neuroplasticity is a process by which brains grow and adapt. In certain parts of the brains, such as the hippocampus, neuroplasticity is a crucial regulator of mood. Often, the low mood can be traced back to decreased neuroplasticity in the hippocampus. Not only does neuroplasticity influence mood and well-being, but it is also one of the primary mechanisms through which memories are formed.

What makes Polygala especially interesting is that it is also an NMDA receptor blocker. It has been shown that blocking the NMDA system can make monoamine systems, such as the dopaminergic system, more sensitive. This should, in the context of Polygala tenuifolia, promote even higher levels of focus in conjunction with its triple reuptake inhibitor effect. The NMDA receptor also plays a crucial role in memory processing“,

“….Polygala tenuifolia, in addition to supporting memory, boosting focus, promoting healthy stress levels, and relaxation, also help protect the brain. It does this by promoting healthy levels of oxidation in the brain.”

Judging by this description, I wouldn’t be surprised that it made it to the list, sitting at the top as the best natural nootropic off the list. I’m very curious now.

Next:

Caffeine & L-Theanine Combination

If you’ve made it far enough in your nootropics journey to be reading this sentence, then it goes without a saying why combining caffeine with l-theanine would make it to the list. In case you didn’t, you can read about it here.

The only combination I use of this 100:200 mg caffeine/theanine ratio is Nootropic Depot’s, so I’ve seen and can understand why a company or consumer would want an enhanced version of the supplement.

Frankly, I don’t respond very well to caffeine so having my bulletproof coffee in the morning keeps me away from using caffeine/theanine. I do, nevertheless, take l-theanine with my coffee every day.

However, ND list this in as an enhanced formula with 150mg caffeine instead of the commonly known 100:200mg ratio. Additionally, they are using a technology called ZumXR that enhances the absorption and delivery of both in a way that they complement each other even more than they do when taken together, which now is almost going to be called “the old fashioned way.”

They explain more about the extended release saying: “DynaMAX utilizes a slightly higher ratio of caffeine to L-theanine than the regular 1:2, with 150mg caffeine to 200mg L-theanine. This ratio preserves the calming effects of L-theanine but allows the caffeine to exert a little bit more stimulation.

In addition to this, we decided to add Dynamine methylliberine, a novel derivative of caffeine made by Compound Solutions, Inc. which is found in small amounts in coffee beans.

When it came to to the caffeine forms, we also decided to come up with a unique caffeine blend that combines instant release anhydrous caffeine with both delayed and extended release microencapsulated caffeine using the ZumXR technology. The result is quick and powerful, but the smooth effect that we are willing to bet can stand up to a good cup of coffee and far surpasses mainstream energy drinks!

Upon taking DynaMAX, after about 15 minutes, Dynamine methylliberine starts working its magic. This is usually experienced as a mood lift with gentle stimulation. After about another 15 minutes, the caffeine kicks in which gets potentiated by the Dynamine methylliberine. This results in quite a profound sense of stimulation and focus. However, before it becomes overwhelming, the L-Theanine steps in and smooths out this stimulation.

After about two hours, when the effects seem to be decreasing a little bit, the delayed release caffeine kicks in. This can be experienced as a quick jolt of energy that will keep you locked into whatever you are focusing or working on. The extended caffeine then carries the effects all the way to the 8-hour mark, letting you down slowly without much of a crash.”

They continue onto saying “consider DynaMAX as a coffee alternative or energy drink alternative, or like a bit more advanced version of the tried and true combination of caffeine/L-theanine.”

Nigella Sativa Extract (Black Seed Oil)

Talks about black seed oil as a nootropic has been circulating for a while on Reddit and such platforms. But outside the nootropic community, black seed oil has been in use for many years. If anything, I’m almost sure it was more widely used back in the day than it is today.

I remember my grandma stuffing it in foods whenever she found the opportunity to do so. Little did I know she was all about nootropics…

Now in our current days, researchers studied the seeds extracts with all the fancy pansy technologies that weren’t accessible to our ancestors back then. They were able to prove its beneficial effects of producing a calming effect and reducing stress, as well as supporting memory.

A little science from the ND guys explains: “most commercial black seed oils have around a maximum of 1% thymoquinone, which is in stark contrast to our black seed oil extract that has a large 5% thymoquinone…..the main benefit of thymoquinone is a pronounced calming effect that does not affect cloud cognition. This is great as it allows for a more relaxed focus which can be a great asset during times of high stress. Furthermore, it is also a great immune system booster. Again, this will help during periods of high stress where the chances of getting sick are much higher than usual. At this point, the added benefits of significant boosts to cognition is just the cherry on top for black seed oil extract.”

And quite frankly it makes a lot of sense based on my readings on black seed oil. Last but not least (because the list is not structured as to 1 being the top one):

Cordyceps Mushroom

Now out of all the nootropics mentioned, this one I have yet to hear of. But the fact that its a mushroom extract, I’m gonna allow myself the pleasure of finding out why it made it to the list of 10 best nootropics of 2018. The description written on cordyceps mushroom on ND’s article makes me very open to it:

“Cordyceps is a unique, stringy, and bright orange mushroom. Cordyceps has very pronounced effects on endurance and overall energy levels. However, it is often overlooked as a brain health supplement. The fact of the matter is that Cordyceps mushrooms have a unique ability to support cognitive health.”

They go on to explain the mechanism of action on how those benefits are achieved: “one of the major pathways by which memories are encoded in the process of long-term potentiation (LTP). LTP is the process by which stimulation of the NMDA receptor causes a signaling cascade in glutamatergic neurons which ultimately leads to the insertion of AMPA receptors on these neurons.

Activation of AMPA receptors makes the likelihood of the NMDA receptor getting activated much higher. As we mentioned earlier, activation of NMDA receptors during the process of LTP can lead to the insertion of an AMPA receptor. Since AMPA receptor activation increases the sensitivity of NMDA receptors, the more AMPA receptors there are means, the more readily LTP will occur. The basic premise of LTP is that the neuron keeps forming stronger connections through NMDA and AMPA receptors.

What makes Cordyceps unique, is that one of the compounds contained in it, cordycepin, makes AMPA receptors more sensitive. Through this mechanism of action, cordycepin can make the process of LTP much more likely to occur, and thereby can produce a significant cognition-enhancing effect. Due to its unique mechanism of action, in addition to the endurance-enhancing effects and overall health-boosting effects, we believe Cordyceps is one of the best natural nootropics available to buy.”

Although the list ends here, I feel like MindLab Pro deserves to be on the list as well due to the fact that it has 13 different, natural nootropics. I can barely split a piracetam or noopept capsule in half – evenly…and they somehow manage to shove all 13 nootropics into the capsule. Nothing beats that product in terms of convenience. Nothing.


Original Nootropic Depot’s article can be found here.


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