February 2019

Nootropics: memory supplements are often mislabeled

Nootropics is a class of drugs or supplements intended to improve thinking skills and memory. But many nootropic products on the market contain multiple ingredients, and some of these products contain none of the ingredients listed on the product label at all.

Over the past decade, the nootropic supplement market has boomed in the US. As the demand for these supplements increases, the number of ingredients under the “nootropics” umbrella has broadened.

A recent study conducted by the US Government Accountability Office tested three memory supplements currently on the market. Two of the products claimed to contain Ginkgo biloba and the third was marketed as a fish oil supplement. While the fish oil supplement contained the ingredients as stated on the label, neither of the two ginkgo supplements actually contained gingko. Both contained an unknown substance, raising safety concerns.

Many nootropic supplements on the market contain new and untested ingredients, including the branded ingredient Noopept. Other nootropic supplements contain phenylethylamine or phenibut as unlisted ingredients. Both of these unlisted ingredients have safety concerns. For instance, taking phenibut can lead to dependence and withdrawal. It’s also been linked to many side effects, including dizziness, hangover, and nausea.

If your patient is interested in taking a supplement for memory, tell them that there is no magic pill. Many of the products contain a long list of ingredients, increasing the risk for side effects and interactions. If a patient insists on taking a supplement for memory, advise them to look for products that have been verified by a third party like USP or NSF. 

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