From antioxidants to therapeutic antibodies, there are a number of supplements and medications that pledge to improve cognitive function. Some claim to promote creativity, while others promise to boost your memory. But does science back them up?
Read on to find out which brain health supplements and medications are scientifically proven to enhance your focus and how they work.
What are Focus Supplements?
Sometimes referred to as brain supplements, focus supplements are products said to increase concentration and alertness. But not all of them work. Some products have been proven to be ineffective, like apoaequorin, a protein found in jellyfish which mostly gets absorbed by the stomach before reaching the brain. Other focus supplements show more promise, and there may be more waiting in the wings. After all, the demand for brain supplements has significantly grown in recent years, potentially to meet the rise in certain cognitive health conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and attention disorders like ADHD.1, 2
Do Brain Health Supplements Work?
Some brain health supplements work better than others, but it’s important to recognize that there is no cure for conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia, nor is there any cure for attention or learning disorders. Nonetheless, there is evidence that some focus supplements may reduce the risk of experiencing symptoms related to these conditions while helping to enhance clarity and focus.
When it comes to which supplements have been debunked, these include the jellyfish protein apoaequorin that we mentioned above along with certain stimulants like adrafinil, which is a precursor to the narcolepsy drug modafinil. And though there are a number of nootropics on the market, these substances have caused adverse side effects in users, such as nausea and insomnia. Even more, some physicians have pointed out that nootropics may have the opposite effect on growing brains, something that could lead to addictive behaviors in the future.3
Who Should Take Focus Supplements?
When considering taking a supplement of any kind, it’s important to note how the U.S. regulates these types of products. Many supplements claiming to enhance focus have not been cleared by the FDA, and do not have clinical studies or science supporting the claims they make, so there is no guarantee regarding their safety or efficacy. Some focus supplements may also have contraindications with other drugs or supplements and may not be suitable for those with certain health conditions. Always consult your doctor first if you’re not sure whether a supplement is safe for you.
irritability and impulsivity.
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Focus Supplements and Non-Prescription Medications We Recommend
Whether you have mild cognitive impairment, an attention disorder, a learning disability, or you simply want to boost your brain power, we recommend the following focus supplements and non-prescription medications. Each one has been clinically proven to enhance your cognitive function and reduce symptoms like distractibility and inattention.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Found in fatty fish, shellfish, and leafy greens, omega-3s are healthy fats that may enhance brain function by preserving cell membrane health and facilitating communication between brain cells.4 In one 2022 study, omega-3 supplementation improved immediate verbal memory in adults with minor cognitive impairments.5 Another study called omega-3 supplementation a “suitable adjunctive therapy” for individuals with ADHD due to improvements in hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention, visual learning, word reading, and working/short-term memory.6
Brillia differs from the other recommendations listed here because it is a non-prescription medication, and not a supplement. Brillia also has substantive documentation with clinical trials and studies of the claims that the product makes, abided by FDA standards and regulations (e.g., for quality and labeling), and gone through a proper registration process detailing active ingredients and inactive ingredients in order to be allowed to be sold in the U.S.
Brillia’s unique active ingredient consists of antibodies to the brain-specific S100 protein (S100B), an important regulator of various different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. Studies show that elevated S100B levels may induce neuroinflammation, leading to acute stress and a dysfunctional blood-brain barrier.7 Brillia works by attaching to this protein and regulating its activity, consequently reducing symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and restlessness while enhancing clarity and focus. As a result of this regulating effect, the level of monoamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) in different parts of the brain normalizes to promote a balanced mood. Studies have found that Brillia has a “pronounced therapeutic effect” in patients with mild to moderate ADHD as well as anxiety.8 The medication increases attention and focus and has been found to lower the incidence of temper tantrums, obsessive behavior, and defiant behavior.
Safe for children and teens ages 5-18 and adults, Brillia is free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects. The medication can also be used alongside other medications or supplements you may be taking as there are no contraindications.
All B vitamins, from B1 to B12, are beneficial to brain health. Deficiency in any one of the B vitamins has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing neurological and psychiatric symptoms like memory loss, fatigue, irritability, and dementia.9 In one study, supplementing with B vitamins improved energy and mental performance in healthy adults and those with inadequate nutrition, with increased activity in the brain regions associated with attention and memory.10 In another study, vitamin B improved cognitive function, specifically memory, in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.11
According to the Cleveland Clinic, vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage.12 Research shows that a daily supplement of vitamin E may slow the rate of decline, but high doses can be unsafe. Other studies show that vitamin E’s ability to reduce lipid peroxidation helps to reduce symptoms of ADHD.13 In addition to its antioxidant properties, vitamin E has anti-inflammatory and hypocholesterolemic properties, which contributes to its importance for brain health.14
Other supplements that have shown promise in brain health include:
- Turmeric: As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, turmeric has been found to improve cognitive functions and memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.15
- Ginkgo biloba: This plant extract has been shown to improve memory, concentration, and alertness over a period of 4-6 weeks.16
- Ginseng: In both animal and cellular model studies, ginseng has been found to protect against oxidative stress, leading to cognitive-enhancing function.17
- Zinc: Zinc deficiency is associated with learning and memory deficits. Research shows that zinc supplementation may be an effective treatment to improve cognitive impairment, as well as depression.18
- Magnesium: Magnesium supplementation has been shown to enhance various forms of cognitive and learning ability, including working memory. This is thought to be due to beneficial changes in synaptic plasticity within the hippocampus.19
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with dementia risk, cognitive decline, and executive dysfunction.20 Supplementing helps to improve and even prevent cognitive decline as shown in some studies, due to a reduction in oxidative stress.21
- Iron: A study of iron supplementation in children and older adults found that the mineral improved attention, concentration, and IQ.22
- Ferritin: As a protein that stores iron, ferritin is a nutrient that is necessary for the production of red blood cells and carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. In terms of focus and attention, studies have shown that ferritin increases cognitive performance in iron-deficient children, and may improve attention, concentration and IQ.23, 24
More Tips to Boost Brain Health
One efficient way to obtain some of the nutrients we listed above is to follow a well-rounded, varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Other proven ways to boost brain health include:
- Exercise regularly25
- Get adequate sleep26
- Practice mindfulness27
- Complete mentally stimulating activities like word puzzles and math problems28
Improving your cognitive function doesn’t have to be hard work. Committing to a healthy lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. Learn more about how to improve your brain health and more at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.