Derived from Greek and simply meaning mind bending or mind turning, nootropic is used to describe both drugs and natural substances which optimise brain performance or cognition. Rather than just supporting ageing memory, they are much more performance related, allowing us to be the best that we can be in terms of our attention, reasoning, perception, problem solving, decision making and even multi-tasking – giving you an edge, if you like.
Certain vitamins, minerals and omega fats we know are key to brain function. Vitamin D influences growth, development and survival of brain cells, whilst B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and omega 3 are key to balanced brain chemistry, but nootropics takes neuro-nutrition a stage further.
Theanine is a good example of a nootropic, enhancing clarity of thought and promoting feelings of calm, this amino acid also reduced the rate of errors in participants undertaking cognitive testing. Interestingly, green tea, with its combination of theanine and caffeine, might be even more effective – research shows this combination increases alertness as well as accuracy and the ability to multitask.
Other nootropics include choline and acetyl-l-carnitine because of their capacity to increase acetylcholine – the brain chemical responsible for our memory and the ability of our brain cells to communicate with each other. Choline enhances cognitive function and acetyl-l-carnitine reduces mental fatigue.
The list of nutrients or botanicals that act as nootropics is long and includes ginkgo, glutamine, rhodiola, phosphatidyl serine, 5-HTP, tyrosine and tryptophan. Combinations of nutrients might be even more helpful, so try layering to help keep you firing on all cylinders.