What are Nootropics ?
Nootropics are natural supplements or drugs that have a beneficial effect on brain function in healthy people.
Many of these can boost memory, motivation, creativity, alertness and general cognitive function. Nootropics may also reduce age-related declines in brain function. Nootropics to help memory remain popular among the 55+ crowd but more recently the demographics is evolving.
Nootropics for memory are now emerging as dynamic performance-enhancers – helping with academics, socializing, working, competing and life in general. This guide discusses the best brain supplements for memory and what positive effect each Nootropic has on cognitive or brain function.
What is Memory?
Memory is a multifaceted learning process that allows us to store new information and access stored information.
At its root, the term memory comes from the Latin memoria, meaning “mindful “and memor, “remembering.” But this definition is deceptively simple. Like other cognitive functions, memory isn’t just one thing.
You are probably familiar with short term memory (also called working memory) and long term memory. That’s just the tip of the cognitive iceberg, but it’s a good place to begin our exploration into the belly of the brain.
Short and Long Term Memory
If the brain is like a computer, then long-term memory is the hard drive, and short term memory is RAM (Random Access Memory). Short term memory processes information that is right before us in the moment. Long term memory stores processed information over time.
Short-term memory is like RAM memory.
As a type of volatile (short-term) memory, any information stored in RAM gets wiped out when the computer’s power is turned off. RAM is actually considered the primary memory of the computer. Without RAM you could not create a document or work within a program.
Like RAM, short-term memory, or active memory, stores information for a short time so we can use it in the moment. When we are done with the information, it either gets stored in long-term memory or it disappears.
Long-term memory is like a hard drive.
A computer’s hard drive is considered more of a storage device rather than memory, and that’s basically what long-term memory is.
Without a hard drive your files, bookmarks, and any other saved information would be deleted as soon as you turned off your computer. In the case of the brain you would not be able to remember anything that happened before you woke up in the morning.
Like a computer, the brain has far more long-term storage than short-term memory. Nootropics for memory can support both.
How BDNF Levels are key to Optimum Brain Health and Performance
Whats is BDNF ?
Brain-Derived Neutropic Factor also known as BDNF, is a protein that, in humans, is encoded by the BDNF gene. BDNF is a member of the neurotrophin family of growth factors, which are related to the canonical nerve growth factor. Neurotrophic factors are found in the brain and the periphery. Wikipedia
The neuroprotein BDNF is responsible for growing new neurons and repairing broken ones. And with a growing body of scientific evidence such as the above, it’s no wonder that brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is quickly becoming one of the hottest compounds in brain health.
Many people are seeking ways to increase this key protein. Right now, exercise is the most commonly known way to achieve this. But, perhaps because we all seem to want a magic bullet (or pill), others have started looking to see if supplements can boost BDNF.
Here are the 10 best nootropic supplements to boost your memory and brain function.
1. Fish Oils
Fish oil supplements are a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two types of omega-3 fatty acids.
According to solid research, Fish oils have also proven to increase BDNF protein in the brain and can help alleviate depression. (Trusted Source)
These fatty acids have been linked with many health benefits, including improved brain health.
DHA plays a vital role in maintaining the structure and function of your brain. In fact, it accounts for around 25% of the total fat, and 90% of the omega-3 fat, found in your brain cells.
The other omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, EPA, has anti-inflammatory effects that may protect the brain against damage and aging.
Taking DHA supplements has been linked with improved thinking skills, memory and reaction times in healthy people who have low DHA intakes. It has also benefitted people experiencing a mild decline in brain function.
Unlike DHA, EPA isn’t always linked with improved brain function. However, in people with depression, it has been associated with benefits like improved mood.
Taking fish oil, which contains both these fats, has been shown to help reduce the decline in brain function associated with aging. Overall, the best way to get the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids is by eating two portions of oily fish per week.
If you can’t manage this, then taking a supplement could be beneficial. You can find many supplements online. You can get more advice on how to identify a high quality fish oil from this post What is the best fish oil supplement ?
More research is required to find out how much and what ratios of EPA and DHA are beneficial. But taking 1 gram per day of combined DHA and EPA is generally recommended to maintain brain health (Trusted Source).
SUMMARY: If you don’t eat the recommended amount of oily fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement to help promote good brain health and healthy brain aging baring in mind that not all fish oil supplements are the same. Fish oils have also been proven to increase BDNF Protein in the brain. What is the best fish oil supplement ?
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin of purple and red fruits like grapes, raspberries and blueberries. It’s also found in red wine, chocolate and peanuts.
It’s been suggested that taking resveratrol supplements could prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain associated with memory.
If this is true, this treatment could slow down the decline in brain function you experience as you get older.
Animal studies have also shown that resveratrol can improve memory and brain function.
Additionally, a study of a small group of healthy older adults found that taking 200 mg of resveratrol per day for 26 weeks improved memory. (Veronica Witte, Lucia Kerti, Daniel S Margulies, Agnes Flöel, Journal of Neuroscience 34 (23), 7862-7870, 2014).
Recent studies show that Resveratrol has also been proven to increase serum concentration levels of BDNF in the brain (Trusted Source).
SUMMARY: In animals, resveratrol supplements have been shown to improve memory and brain function. According to the above study there is reason to beleive it has similar effects on people. Resveratrol has also been proven to increase BDNF concentration in the brain.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee and dark chocolate.
Although it’s possible to take it as a supplement, there isn’t really any need when you can get it from these sources.
It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system, making you feel less tired and more alert.
In fact, studies have shown that caffeine can make you feel more energized and improve your memory, reaction times and general brain function and concentration.
Coffee is another great way to increase BDNF levels. Research shows that caffeine protects brain cells and lowers the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. In one study, researchers found that caffeine significantly reduced age-related impairments in memory by increasing BDNF levels (Trusted Source)
For most people, single doses of around 200–400 mg per day are generally considered safe and are enough to benefit health.
However, taking too much caffeine can be counterproductive and has been linked with side effects such as anxiety, nausea and trouble sleeping.
SUMMARY: Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can improve your brain function and make you feel more energized and alert. Neuroactive6 – Amazing blend that uses coffee fruits
Phosphatidylserine is a type of fat compound called a phospholipid, which can be found in your brain.It’s been suggested that taking phosphatidylserine supplements could be helpful for preserving brain health.
Studies have shown that taking 100 mg of phosphatidylserine three times per day could help reduce age-related decline in brain function.
Additionally, healthy people who take phosphatidylserine supplements of up to 400 mg per day have been shown to have improved thinking skills and memory.
However, larger studies need to be carried out before its effects on brain function can be fully understood.
SUMMARY: Phosphatidylserine supplements could improve your thinking skills and memory. They could also help combat the decline in brain function as you age. However, further study is needed.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid produced naturally in your body. It plays an important role in your metabolism, particularly in energy production.
Taking acetyl-L-carnitine supplements has been claimed to make you feel more alert, improve memory and slow down age-related memory loss (44Trusted Source).
These supplements can be found in vitamin stores or online.
Some animal studies have shown that acetyl-L-carnitine supplements can prevent age-related decline in brain function and increase learning capacity (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
In humans, studies have found that it may be a useful supplement for slowing the decline in brain function due to age. However, there is no research to show it has a beneficial effect in otherwise healthy people who aren’t suffering from a loss of brain function.
SUMMARY: Acetyl-L-carnitine could be helpful for treating a loss of brain function in the elderly and people with mental disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Its effects in healthy people are unknown though it is commonly used by bodybuilders to increase energy as it helps burns body fat and turns into energy.
6. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is an herbal supplement derived from the Ginkgo biloba tree. It’s an incredibly popular supplement that many people take to boost their brain power, and it’s available in stores and online.
It’s thought to work by increasing blood flow to the brain and is claimed to improve brain functions like focus and memory (53Trusted Source).
Despite the widespread use of ginkgo biloba, results from studies investigating its effects have been mixed.
Some studies have found that taking ginkgo biloba supplements can help reduce age-related decline in brain function.
One study in healthy middle-aged people found that taking ginkgo biloba supplements helped improve memory and thinking skills.
SUMMARY: Ginkgo biloba may help improve your short-term memory and thinking skills. It may also protect you from age-related decline in brain function. However, results are inconsistent.
Creatine is a natural substance that plays an important role in energy metabolism. It’s found naturally in the body, mostly in muscles and in smaller amounts in the brain.
Although it’s a popular supplement, you can find it in some foods, namely animal products like meat, fish and eggs.
Interestingly, creatine supplements can improve memory and thinking skills in people who don’t eat meat.
In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition 2011 found that vegetarians taking creatine supplements experienced a 25–50% improvement in performance on a memory and intelligence test.
However, meat eaters don’t see the same benefits. This may be due to the fact that they are not deficient and already get enough from their diets.
SUMMARY: Taking creatine supplements could help improve short term memory and thinking skills in people who don’t eat meat such as vegetarians.
8. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is a medicine made from the herb Bacopa monnieri. It’s used in traditional medicine practices like Ayurveda for improving brain function.
It’s been shown to improve thinking skills and memory, both in healthy people and in elderly people suffering from a decline in brain function.
However, it’s worth noting that only repeated use of Bacopa monnieri has been shown to have this effect. People generally take about 300 mg per day and it may take around four to six weeks for you to notice any results.
Studies of Bacopa monnieri also show that it may occasionally cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Because of this, many people recommend taking this supplement with food (70Trusted Source).
SUMMARY: Bacopa monnieri has been shown to improve memory and thinking skills in healthy people and in those with a decline in brain function.
9. Asian (or Panax) ginseng. An herb that’s sometimes used with ginkgo biloba, is a species of plant whose root is the original source of ginseng. It is a perennial plant that grows in the mountains of Eastern Asia. Wikipedia. Asian ginseng may help with fatigue and quality of life by improving brain functions like memory, behavior and mood.
SUMMARY: Ginseng has been shown to benefit mental functions, feelings of calmness and mood in both healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s disease.
10. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a vital nutrient for good health, particularly brain health. It is found in a wide variety of foods and supplements, so the best way to consume this vitamin is through a healthy diet. Vitamin E is important for many areas of the body including vision, reproduction, blood health, and most importantly, brain health and as an antioxidant it protects from free radicals and fight cognitive decline and aging. Since human beings don’t come packaged with all the vitamins and minerals we need, we need to make sure we get them from a good diet and proper supplementation. High quality Vitamin E.
SUMMARY: Vitamin E is found in food such as brocoli and spinach and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts. Although it doesn’t enhance memory directly, it is considered a vital nutrient for brain health as it fights cognitive decline and aging.
Some of these supplements show real promise for improving and protecting brain health. They can be taken seperately or preferabley in a well balanced blend that promotes higher levels of BDNF proteins such as Nauroactive6.
However, note that many brain-boosting supplements are only effective for people who are deficient in the supplemented nutrient, but do we have enough supply of these nutrients from the food we eat ? An easy to read e-book by Dr. Shelly Shockley is a must read for anyone that wants to know more about different strategies to implement for optimum brain health.