This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.
Last Updated on December 13, 2020
Today’s society is fast paced. We work hard and play hard. The problem with the frenetic pace of life, though, is that we can easily become frazzled. We end up not having time to eat properly or exercise enough, and this exacerbates the problem. The end result can be a vitamin deficiency
While most people who adhere to a balanced diet that includes vitamin-rich foods as presented in MedAlertHelp’s infographic don’t experience deficiencies, some want to take it one step further. They do this by taking standard vitamin supplements. Others even add a nootropic supplement to the mix. But what are they exactly, are they safe and effective, and should you take them? Let’s investigate.
What Are Nootropics?
These are drugs that are believed to enhance mental performance. They are said to help us be more focused, improve our attention spans, help our ability to learn, and improve basic cognitive health. The science is still reasonably new, but the basic idea behind them is simple.
They work by helping protect your brain’s neurons and help strengthen neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity controls how we respond to sensory data. Better neuroplasticity helps us act on sensory data faster and more efficiently. As a result, nootropics have become a firm favorite in high-pressure environments. Many execs in Silicon Valley swear by them.
Should I Be Taking Them?
A pill that helps you improve focus and cognitive abilities, and also might regulate your mood? Who doesn’t want that? But whether you should or should not be taking them is a matter that is widely debated. The camps are split between those who believe wholeheartedly in “brain hacking” and those who believe that the supplements are unsafe.
Are They Safe?
The manufacturers are very keen on promoting the benefits, but the truth is that there is not quite enough scientific research to back up those claims. The research very seldom refers to human trials. And while rodents do offer a viable alternative, they are not human.
Also, the research invariably centers on one particular ingredient. Most nootropic drugs consist of a range of different compounds. Now, while these may be beneficial on their own, the research on how they interact if taken together is usually thin on the ground.
Many nootropic supplements are made up of completely natural elements. Most of us assume that herbal medicine is perfectly safe, but this isn’t always true. There may be some serious side effects like anxiety, diarrhea, irritability, a slower heart rate, and insomnia.
Worse still, there is a possibility that you may become dependent on these supplements. To stop taking them suddenly could cause you to experience rebound withdrawal symptoms, which could be worse than those that caused you to take the drugs in the first place.
The simple fact is that there has not been enough research in this area to consider these supplements safe. Even if you don’t experience negative side effects, there is very little data about the safety of these drugs over the long term. And there is even less data on how effective these drugs really are.
Are They Effective?
For some people, they might be. There is no denying that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the use of these supplements. There is a big difference, however, between anecdotal evidence and scientific research.
What does the research say? What little research there has been shows that these drugs are effective in cases where a cognitive deficit is present. So if you have Alzheimer’s, for example, they could benefit you. Scientists are not convinced that they have the same positive effect on a person who is in good health, though.
The jury is out on whether or not you should add these to your daily regimen. There is some evidence that they could be effective if you have a cognitive disorder. But we have to wonder whether the supposed benefits outweigh the potential risks and side effects.
Brain hacking is still in its early days, and we just don’t have enough information on the long-term effects. For now, you are better off trying to follow a healthy eating plan and getting enough exercise. If you need a boost, maybe just stick to a strong cup of coffee.