With the significant rise of natural brain boosters to increase focus and concentration in the past decade, we review 3 popular ingredients to improve your ability to stay alert for longer.
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA, commonly known as omega-3 fatty acid is found in fish oils and is thought to be important for brain and heart function.
DHA also appears to show some improved outcomes for people who already have heart disease and potentially lowers the risk for developing heart disease. DHA may lower triglycerides (fats in the blood), blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clots and reduce the amount of arterial plaque, which narrows arteries and causes heart disease.
- Ginko Biloba
Chinese medicine dictates that taking ginkgo supplements will improve memory and sharpen thinking. For thousands of years, leaves from the ginkgo biloba tree have been a common treatment and some studies have found that ginkgo modestly boosts memory and cognitive speed. However, these results are not conclusive and other studies have not found a benefit.
For example, one study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that ginkgo improved attention whilst another study in the journal of Human Psychopharmacology suggested that it improves memory. Nevertheless, in a review of studies on ginkgo in healthy people, researchers found no evidence that it improved mental abilities, according to a eport in Psychopharmacology Bulletin.
- Aceytl-L-carnatine (ALCAR)
ALCAR is the new kid on the block and is often used as a brain booster due to its ability to increase alertness and mitochondrial capacity while providing support for the neurons.
There’s not much evidence available about its effects in healthy people but one study found that patients suffering from Alzheimer’s benefited from taking it.
Despite the lack of evidence, it does improve mental focus and alertness similar to the effects of caffeine. Likewise, taking too much can cause side effects such as restlessness, irritability, and tension in the neck muscles.
There isn’t enough in the way of scientific data to support claims that supplements and herbs boosts brainpower. After all these things are considered, supplements are not drugs and therefore not subject to the rigorous approval process that drugs are. Regulators attempt to limit the claims manufacturers can make to some degree, but you’re largely left to judge for yourself.
Some stimulators such as DHA and ALCAR may increase mental activity for short periods of time but no one really knows how they act on the brain.
With herbs, we advise caution as several dozen compounds will be in action, making it difficult to pinpoint which one is the most active or whether it’s a combination result.
Last Word from the Editor
Our advice, it’s not neuroscience but common sense. The traditional methods of eating healthy, sleeping well and exercising regularly will make your energy levels soar!
- Yokoyama M et al. Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on major coronary events in hypercholesterolaemic patients (JELIS): a randomised open-label, blinded endpoint analysis. Lancet.2007;369:1090–8.
- Kennedy DO, Jackson PA, Haskell CF, Scholey AB. Modulation of cognitive performance following single doses of 120 mg Ginkgo biloba extract administered to healthy young volunteers. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2007;22(8):559–66.
- Derek Ong Lai Teik et al Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba Effects on Cognition as Modulated by Cardiovascular Reactivity: A Randomised Trial. PLoS One. 2016; 11(3): Published online 2016 Mar 3.
- Sørensen H, Sonne J. A double-masked study of the effects of ginseng on cognitive functions. Current Therapeutic Research. 1996;57(12):959–68.
- Janos Kerner et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine increases mitochondrial protein acetylation in the aged rat heart. Mech Ageing Dev. 2015 Jan; 145: 39–50.
- Mantero M et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine as a therapeutic agent for mental deterioration in geriatric patients. (Double-blind placebo controlled study). New Trends Clin Neuropharmacol.1989;3:17–24.