The Lowdown on Nootropics

Nootropics are quickly becoming the hottest new supplement for people to take, but not a lot of people know what they are. Previously seen, in an exaggerated way, in the film Limitless with Bradley Cooper, the premise of which was a copywriter discovering a secret drug that gives him super human qualities.

While this may not happen to quite the extent as seen on the big screen, there is no denying that nootropics are on the rise and are making their way up there with the dieting industry, and soon it may be bigger.

But what are nootropics and will they be able to help with weight loss? These are the questions you will want answered the most and more.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropic effects on the brain

It’s a very simple question but there are lots of alternative names for nootropics, some of which are smart drugs, memory enhancers and cognitive enhancers, to name a few. Put quite simply, they intend to improve one or more aspects of your mental function.

They only began to be called nootropics in 1973 when a Romanian psychologist called Corneliu E. Giurgea, created the term from the Greek words nous, meaning mind, and trepein, meaning to bend or turn. These supplements will literally change the way your mind works, supposedly.

A lot of us are already using them without probably realizing it, with the best example being caffeine. Whether that is in the form of a supplement or the drink, it is naturally optimizing the speed in which our brain works. It’s why most of us take it in the morning to give a quick boost and we instantly feel wide awake within half an hour. Pretty amazing stuff, right? The science behind it is even more so.

How do they work?

These types of supplements tend to work in a variety of ways, all of which are different. A lot of them increase the supply of neurotransmitters and other neurochemicals, which help with brain signaling pathways that are related to cognition, memory formation and recall.

There are different types of nootropics, such as Natural Nootropics, Racetams, Choline, Ampakines, Peptides and Smart Drugs.

Natural Nootropics:

These are plant based or plant derived substances, which will help to improve brain health and ability. They may not be as effective as some of the synthetic ones but as they are natural you can stack them together to get better results. As they are natural they will make your brain healthier while helping to boost brain functions. The types of substances included in natural nootropics are amino acids, vitamins, minerals, herbs, phytonutrients, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Examples of these include Acetyl-l-carnitine, Taurine, Green Tea and Picamilon. Of course, there are many more that can be grouped under this type of nootropic.


Even though the property of this drug class isn’t well established, they are often referred to as nootropics. These were the first type of nootropics invented and there are around twenty different types. Racetams are similar as they share a Pyrrolidone nucleus chemical structure and they stimulate the brain to release Acetylcholine, which is one of the most important neurochemical neurotransmitters in the brain. It helps to transmit nerve impulse and other signals across synapses, effectively speeding up the process. The most popular types of Racetams to do this are Piracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam and Pramiracetam.


This is a water-soluble nutrient that is important for the health of cell membranes. They are often stacked with Racetams to achieve better results, rather than just taking it on its own. Pairing these two types of nootropics together will make sure there is enough Acetylcholine being released when the receptors are activated. This will lead to enhanced comprehension and cognitive functioning.


This type of nootropic is relatively new and strong, which increase the levels of glutamate in the blood. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that has an important role in synaptic plasticity, which is important to the process of learning and memory. Ampakines are often used to increase attention spans and alertness, the good news being that they don’t cause unpleasant side effects such as restlessness, insomnia and anxiety. As this is new there isn’t enough research to determine the long-term effects for human use.


Russia has been particularly interested in this type of nootropic and have created a lot of products. Peptides are biologically occurring short chains of amino acid monomers linked by peptide bonds. However, the problem with this type is that it often has to be taken nasally to have effects or even be injected, which often puts people off of them.

Smart Drugs:

The drugs that often fall into this category are not considered to be nootropics and are often abused. They stimulate the body and mind; with advise being to stray towards the safer nootropics on this list.

Why do people take them?

There are a lot of reasons as to why people traditionally take nootropics. Most recently students have been using them to help them get through exam seasons as the nootropics help them to stay alert and focused when revising and they seem to be able to soak in information better. There has been a lot of debate as to whether the students should be allowed to take them; with some saying it is cheating and almost as bad as athletes using enhancement drugs, such as steroids.

In a debate over the topic 59% were for the motion of allowing students to take smart drugs, 33% were against it and 8% were undecided.

Whether it is available or not, nothing is going to stop it. In some ways, this drug is perfect for students who don’t have regular jobs, can sleep irregular hours, have crush deadlines due to procrastinations, and so on.

Source: Lifezette

People who have extremely tiring jobs, such as those who do shift work, have to travel a lot or just have a pile of work to get through; they will take these nootropics to get a little help. It’s their secret weapon that not a lot of people know about. They want to take something that will boost creativity and energy without a crash at the end or side effects, in which nootropics are the answer for them.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of taking a nootropic drug are plentiful, depending on what you are taking them for.


This is one of the most common goals when it comes to taking nootropics. A lot are designed to help you recall memories easier and make new memories efficiently, which would be perfect when studying for a test and soaking in information. After all, the word nootropic does mean mind-bending in Greek.


This is a very important factor for a lot of people taking nootropics. People claim to be able to see and think much more clearly after taking the supplements and attention spans are increased, which is always handy when you have a long day at work ahead.

Mood Enhancer:

Surprisingly enough a lot of people take nootropics to help with anxiety and reduced stress levels, which in the long term could lead to improved motivation. These specific nootropics enhance mood by increasing brain chemicals that will ultimately lead to happiness and reduce anxiety. Perfect for if you have a meeting or test coming up by helping you to become calm and relaxed.

Reasoning and Creativity:

There are a lot of nootropics that are created to help get the creative juices flowing, which is definitely something someone in that field would want. With your brain wired you would be able to complete so much in a short amount of time, making them popular among people in the media field.

Can they help with weight loss?

It has been said that there are some weight loss ingredients that are present in nootropics that can help with weight loss, as well as everything else mentioned above. Soon nootropics could be entering into the weight loss industry with a bang if people start learning of them.

There are certain ingredients used in nootropics that can impact weight loss in a positive way and are commonly featured in weight loss supplements nowadays.

They are:

  • Acetyle L-Carnitine: this is known to enhance genitive ability, which is why it is an important ingredient in nootropics, but it’s also included in a lot of weight loss products. It allows you to burn stored fat to gain energy. If you want to use this to lose weight a dose needs to be between 500 and 1500 mg per day.
  • Choline: has been proven to be effective for weight loss and doesn’t create side effects like some supplements. We get a lot of choline from the food we eat such as fish, eggs and liver. Choline is important for nerve cell function, brain function and metabolic functions of the liver. It encourages fat to be used as energy and promotes lipolysis by burning more fat than your typical metabolic rate would. This helps to achieve steady weight loss and decreases the chances of gaining it back. A lot of athletes often pair this with Carnitine and caffeine to make a powerful weight loss mixture.
  • Caffeine: most commonly used to improve mental alertness in the form of a stimulant among athletes. It works by stimulating the central nervous system, heart, muscles, and the centers that control blood pressure. It is possibly effective for increasing physical strength and endurance, delaying exhaustion. This is included in weight loss supplements to give you an edge and get through tough workouts easily.
  • Coenzyme Q10: is similar to a vitamin and is found in every cell of the body, used for producing energy for cell growth and maintenance. As well as this it can also work as an antioxidant. This ingredient has been included in some weight loss supplements as it is said to boost energy and recovery from exercise.
  • Chromium: is a trace mineral that has been used for improving blood sugar control in people with diabetes, but it can also be used for weight loss by increasing muscle and decreasing body fat by helping to increase energy, but the research on this is often inconclusive.
  • Ginseng: is a plant where the root has been used in the past to make medicine. It is most commonly used for improving concentration, memory and work output, as well as athletic endurance, making it perfect for helping to lose weight.
  • Guarana Extract: this is something found in a lot of weight loss supplements as it is said to increase athletic performance by working as a stimulant. As it contains caffeine it works in the same way by stimulating the central nervous system.
  • Green Tea: made from the Camellia sinensis plant with a variety of uses such as improving mental alertness, weight loss, stomach disorders and more, which is why a lot of people drink it as a beverage. It contains 2% to 4% caffeine, which is what affects thinking and alertness.
  • L-Tyrosine: is an amino acid that is often used for improving memory and alertness. With regards for weight loss there is insufficient evidence for it helping with weight loss but a lot of supplements include this ingredient.
  • Vitamin B: certain ones, such as Vitamin B12, have been linked to weight loss and boosting energy. It is used for memory loss conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and is often used in combination with other B vitamins to help with the function and development of the brain, nerves and blood cells.
  • 5HTP: is a chemical by-product of the protein L-tryptophan and works in the brain and CNS by increasing the chemical serotonin. It is often sold in the US, Canada and the UK as an antidepressant, appetite suppressant and sleep aid.

What studies have taken place?

There have been a lot of clinical studies on nootropics, with a lot of them being done on rats and mice, rather than humans. Take Piracetam for example, created in the 1970s by a Romanian scientist, the first smart drug to be considered a nootropic. It is the most popular and well-researched smart drug on the market that is a cognitive enhancer. The studies that took place showed that it is effective for improving short and long term memory, which would come in handy when it came to learning a new technique for working out.

Source: Pure Nootropics

One study showed that after 14 days of taking 3×4 capsules at 400mg per day, verbal learning had significantly increased in the volunteers.

Source: NCBI

A lot of people believe that if you’re brain is still developing (well into your 20s some say) then you shouldn’t use nootropics as there isn’t enough research to find out the long-term effects. For one, they haven’t been around long enough for this to happen.

Some people have even taken to writing about their own experiences of using nootropics to see if they really do work, although it may not be the same for everyone. One such persons report was interesting to read. The writer found that by taking something called Provigil he was able to work to his best abilities and complete a lot of work without crashing. Provigil is a medication that promotes wakefulness, often given to narcoleptics, and works by altering the natural chemicals in the brain. Another name for Provigil is Modafinil, which is the better-known name. While on the drug he noticed that he wasn’t hungry at all and this leads us to believe that nootropics could help you lose weight in the long run.

Source: Huffington Post

What do the professionals say?

The opinion in the scientific fields about nootropics is mixed at best and it seems that it all comes down to ethical reasons as to why it is supported or not supported.

In the face of vanishingly few side effects in these controlled environments, modafinil can be considered a cognitive enhancer. However, we would like to stress the point that with any method used to enhance cognition, ethical considerations always have to be taken into account.

-Anna-Katharine Brem, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford.

Source: Live Science

If people have a perceived problem, go to a physician. If they have no perceived problem and they want to seek a cognitive boost, they can try a supplement or nootropic, but the amount of evidence behind their use is just not robust yet…In an age of information overload where people are one-upping each other on tests, I understand why this is popular. But personally it doesn’t ethically sit well.

-Dr. Richard Isaacson, someone at the forefront of neuroscience, whose mission is to treat unhealthy brains. He feels that by taking nootropics you are effectively cheating the body, the mind and looking for shortcuts that might leave you worse off in years to come.

Source: Observer

Most people believe that taking these kinds of drugs is okay if you genuinely have a problem, but they don’t understand how someone who is perfectly healthy brain wise would want to take them. One professor, Anjan Chatterjee, said “This age of cosmetic neurology is coming, and we need to know it’s coming.” How true he is.

Are there any side effects?

Nootropics are known for being fairly safe, with not a lot of them causing side effects, as the ingredients are often non-toxic to human brains, like with the natural nootropics. These ingredients can’t be dangerous as they are preserving brain functions and cognition.

When thinking about side effects you have to take into account the fact that they haven’t been studied for a long time so nobody really fully knows the long-term effects of nootropics, particularly in humans. This is definitely something to think about when taking nootropics.

Scientists are worried about taking brain-enhancing drugs as they are saying that our brains are likely to be fully developed by the age of 25. Using something to manipulate the brain may not allow certain connections to be formed which could be beneficial. If you abuse nootropics this will be even worse.

Something to look out for is the dosage of the nootropic that you are taking as it could stimulate areas of the brain that are involved in substance abuse. There is a real possibility of becoming addicted to a supplement like nootropics as you could enjoy the effects and overuse it for longer than you should. As well as this, you might build up a tolerance to the drug, making it ineffective at the correct dose.

There are so many different types of nootropics, each one doing something different, and they will ultimately do different things to your body. Some suggest that Provigil decreases dopamine over a long period of time and could lead to difficult withdrawals. Whereas others, like racetams, are safer to use over a long-term, which is why you have to take into account how they will affect you.

Like with any kind of supplement people will react differently to something and that needs to be taken into account. Some people try them out and crash the next day feeling ill and lethargic, whereas others can use them for a period of time and not feel any side effects once they stop taking them. The things that influence how it affects you will be genetics, lifestyle and the actual nootropic taken.

Some of the minor side effects you can experience are:

  • Migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes


After looking at all of the information and all aspects of what nootropics are it is safe to say that we can see why they are popular. Anything that offers to make you a better version of yourself is sure to sound appealing, especially to those in high paid jobs and getting through university or college. The idea of them being created from ingredients that are also in dietary supplements suggests that nootropics could also be used for weight loss purposes. Having increased motivation and focus could help you to stay on track with a diet or workout regime, as well as suppressing appetite.

Of course, you always have to be careful of anything that you are putting into your system and it is always a good idea to thoroughly research, whether it is a dietary supplement or a nootropic. Having only really been around since the 60s and 70s scientists haven’t have a chance to see what the long term effects are of nootropics, which is why most suggest using them sparingly if you have to.

We suggest that if you want to try nootropics that you go for Racetams or Natural Nootropics as they are seen as being safe than others. As long as you research and do a background check on the company you are getting them from, you’re on the road to something that could be amazing.

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