This article originally appeared on FocusSupplements.co.uk
There's an inconvenient misconception about nutrition, specifically that...
You don't need to supplement vitamins and nutrients as long as you are eating a healthy diet.
While eating a healthy diet is really crucial - it's one of the first steps of Biohacking, if you're sick, depressed or unproductive you should optimize your diet first - it's not enough.
- You could spend two thousand dollars a month eating the finest organic food you could find.
- You could only eat at the best health food restaurants in your town.
- You could spend hours in the kitchen every week meticulously prepping your meals.
- You could never cheat on your diet.
And despite your best efforts and accruing significant expense you would still be nutrient deficient and in none-optimal health.
A critical thinker may reply to this
But that doesn't make sense! Our evolutionary ancestors were healthier than us and definitely didn't take fancy supplements. As long as you're eating a natural healthy "paleo" diet shouldn't that give your body everything you need?
Here's why this isn't so...
Our evolutionarily novel toxic environment poisons and kills us ever so slowly with nasty chemicals that our ancestors never had to worry about.
The unfortunate side effect of the past 150 years of tremendous industrial innovation has been thousands of radically unnatural chemicals seeping into every aspect of modern life.
Many of these chemicals undermine our foundational Mitochondrial energy generation process. From Dave Asprey's manifesto on Mitochondria
Environmental toxins are a leading cause of mitochondrial dysfunction. We are now exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals and pollutants that simply didn’t exist a mere hundred years ago. These chemicals have made their way into our bodies, and our mitochondria have not evolved to thrive among them. (p. 37)
These toxins are behind a lot of our diseases of modernity; cancer, obesity, depression, autoimmune diseases, etc
To properly address the significant threat these toxins pose you could live like a paranoid monk isolated from civilization...
- Only eat food that you had cultivated yourself
- Bath in forest streams
- Never use shampoo
- Never use a public restroom
- Wipe your ass with organic banana peels
...And you would significantly improve your health. But you would also be a total hermit and miss out on really vigorously living and enjoying the life that you're optimizing your health for.
A much more reasonable (and cost effective) option is to optimize your Mitochondria and neurobiology with supplementation.
Dr. Frank Shallenberger (who discovered and named EOMD) estimates that we actually need 50– 100 percent more energy now than we did a hundred years ago to get rid of all of the toxins that are inside our bodies, slowing down our energy production and making us weak. (p. 37)
Focus Supplements which serves the United Kingdom and European union countries meets my very high standards for supplements because it publicly provides certificates of analysis (COA) for it's products, a lab verification that the products actually are what they say they are. If a supplement vendor can't provide this it's a good reason to be very skeptical that their product is legit.
If I had to pick one word to describe Focus Supplements product line it would be...
They are a none-fringe source of credible vitamins and Nootropics to empower your health. I say none-fringe because an under-informed customer can get themselves into some trouble by ordering and consuming strange research compounds and drugs that really are not safe or appropriate for them.
The main thing that imbues credibility is science; more specifically double-blind, placebo controlled human studies evaluating the statistical effectiveness of these supplements. Below, I'll concisely describe the findings of recent trials and meta analysis and list the number of recent studies done on these supplements.
Uridine and Alpha GPC, a potent choline source, support and modulate your acetylcholine system.
- It's a cognitive enhancer that will likely make you a better programmer, designer or student. From a 2003 Dutch study A combination of uridine and choline administration improved selective attention and spatial learning...
- The combination promotes Neuroplasticity; building and repairing synaptic connections and grey matter to correspond to new skills we are trying to cultivate or meaningful personal development.
- Want good genes? Uridine is an essential cog in the RNA encoding mechanism.
- Fish oil (DHA specifically) is a potent Nootropic cofactor, known as the Mr Happy Stack.
From a University of Utah, placebo controlled 2010 spectroscopy study that gave 2 grams of Uridine daily to healthy males
This is the first study to report a direct effect of uridine on membrane phospholipid precursors in healthy adults using [magnetic resonance spectroscopy]. Sustained administration of uridine appears to increase [phosphomonoesters] in healthy subjects.
This indicates strongly that it maybe very helpful for treating bipolar depression.
Articles of Human Research in Past 10 Years: Over 1500
Berberine is a synthetic extract derived from various herbs that have been used since time immemorial in Chinese traditional medicine. It's a helpful health promoting agent in more than a few dimensions:
- It's main utility to performance enhancement seeking biohackers is optimizing our blood sugar levels. If you find yourself in an afternoon productivity slump frequently after a large lunch it's worth trying.
- Taking it with a teaspoon of coconut oil is a good idea as it optimizes intestinal absorption and it's antidiabetic effect.
- It's a telomeres hack with anti-cancer properties and life extension potential.
- According to animal studies it's has an anti-depressant effect.
- It's as good as the drug Metformin for treating diabetes.
While there's lots of other Nootropics and supplements that have these sorts of beneficial effects what makes Berberine stand out is the large body of international research done on it and that it's an extract of natural herbs.
Articles of Human Research in Past 10 Years:>780
This combination is a classic biohacker favorite because it consistently delivers a sublime mindset of relaxed arousal; a state of energetic focus and motivation but also simultaneous tranquility. Obviously, a lot of Nootropics have this effect but caffeine and L-Theanine is a favorite of lifehackers, entrepreneurs and hard studying students because of it's easy tolerance curve, consistent effect and affordability.
A paper out of Tufts University on the synergy of these two Nootropics reported
Consumed together, caffeine and theanine exert similar cognitive effects to that of caffeine alone, but exert opposite effects on arousal, in that caffeine accentuates and theanine mitigates physiological and felt stress responses.
From an exhaustive 2017 Swiss review of recent human studies
The reviewed studies presented evidence that green tea influences psychopathological symptoms (e.g. reduction of anxiety), cognition (e.g. benefits in memory and attention) and brain function (e.g. activation of working memory seen in functional MRI). The effects of green tea cannot be attributed to a single constituent of the beverage. This is exemplified in the finding that beneficial green tea effects on cognition are observed under the combined influence of both caffeine and l-theanine, whereas separate administration of either substance was found to have a lesser impact.
Articles specifically on Caffeine and L-Theanine: 18
Optimizing Choline supplementation is a bit tricky. The acetylcholine system is very complicated and effects everything from depression and formation of new memories to signaling muscles to move so that you can type, walk your dog or break dance.
It's been found in research that
- A placebo controlled clinical trial done at MIT evaluated the two in combination, it concluded: it seems likely that the circulating substrates through which oral citicoline increases membrane phosphatide synthesis in the brains of humans involve uridine and choline.
- Combined uridine and choline administration improves cognitive deficits in animal studies.
- Uridine increases synaptic proteins and phospholipids in the brain.
Articles specifically on CDP Choline and Uridine: 20
You hear a lot about testosterone and how more testosterone is good for you and less testosterone is pretty bad for you. What you hear less about is estrogen, even if you're a man estrogen is an important hormone, in fact in it has a yin-yang kind of relationship with testosterone, we need it because a certain amount of estrogen converts into testosterone. Diindoylymethane (which I'll refer to by the much easier to pronounce acronym DIM) serves an important function regulating estrogen levels, which modulates your hormones so you feel and act appropriately manly or womanly.
You get DIM naturally from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli but you would have to eat a couple of crates full of broccoli a day to get the dose of DIM that effectively hacks your hormones.
There's a lot of recent promising research in the area of cancer prevention. A recent American paper suggests that it's an epigenetic hack
Epigenetics, the study of heritable changes in gene expression without modifying the nucleotide sequence, is among the most important topics in medicinal chemistry and cancer prevention and therapy. Among those changes, DNA methylation and histone modification have been shown to be associated with various types of cancers in a number of ways, many of which are regulated by dietary components [like diindolylmethane].
Articles of Human Research in Past 10 Years: 180
Whatever Nootropics or supplements you're going to be consuming to meet your biohacking goals, you'll enjoy washing them down with this tasty ceremonial grade Dream Matcha Green Tea.
- A 2017 Dutch review of 49 different human intervention studies concluded that it's better than normal green tea as a Nootropic beverage; matcha tea, is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the world and is frequently referred to as a mood- and brain food. Matcha tea consumption leads to much higher intake of green tea phytochemicals compared to regular green tea... These studies provided reliable evidence showing that L-theanine and caffeine have clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.
- Interestingly, a 2016 Japanese study found that the manual ceramic milling process by which the green matcha powder is made out of leaves improves the concentration of biologically beneficial catechins.
- It contains a healthy dose of L-Theanine which imbues a subtle modicum of tranquility that may take the edge off the stimulatory effects of other Nootropics.
- It's enzymes help with the digestion of other foods.
- An animal study suggests that it attenuates dental plaque formation
A 2017 Dutch placebo controlled study hints at it's Nootropic effects
...on most cognitive performance measures the drink format outperformed the bar format, particularly in tasks measuring speed of spatial working memory and delayed picture recognition. This study suggests that matcha tea consumed in a realistic dose can induce slight effects on speed of attention and episodic secondary memory to a low degree.
Articles of human research on Matcha Green Tea: +15
Magnesium is essential to health BUT not all magnesium is created equal, Magnesium becomes much more bioavailable when combined with Taurine amino acid. Magnesium is an essential part of over 300 different chemical reactions that occur in our bodies.
- For many it's a sleep hack; it's relaxing and promotes better sleep quality.
- It improves aerobic exercise capacity.
- One of it's most appreciated effects is alleviating migraines.
- A systematic review of 29 different human studies found a statistically significant correlation between magnesium deficiency and depression.
- NMDA receptors in the membranes of our minds require the presence of magnesium
Magnesium deficiencies are the second most common nutrient deficiency in the English speaking world. Unless you consume just a bunch of spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds or dark chocolate magnesium supplementation is a pretty good idea!
A 2016 Japanese clinical trial evaluated Taurine and magnesium supplementation in healthy males
Endothelial damage is repaired by endothelial progenitor cells... which are pivotal in preventing cardiovascular diseases and prolonging lifespan.
Taurine and [magnesium] supplementation increased [endothelial progenitor cells] colony formation in healthy men...
...intake of taurine and [magnesium] may prolong lifespan by preventing the progression of cardiovascular diseases.
Endothelial dysfunction is a pretty scary thing where your cell barriers don't function correctly. It can be caused by any number of things, including second hand smoke and results in serious heart diseases.
Articles specifically on Magnesium and Taurine: 80
Rhodiola has several profoundly beneficial effects that no other Nootropic or healthy food has.
It's an adaptogen that restores a degree of plasticity and flexibility which allows our nervous system to respond robustly to stressors.
Not all Rhodiola is created equal. There's a significant experiential difference between cheapo Chinese Rhodiola and quality, organic stuff.
Articles of human research on Rhodiola Rosea: +100
We've all heard that antioxidants like Resveratrol are good for us but do you know why specifically?
The transhumanist Aubrey De Grey is famous for saying that...
Breathing is bad for us!
Which may sound absurd but it's actually quite true, just like iron rusts or bread goes bad when left out because of oxidation, our internal organs are oxidized over time. This is why antioxidants like Resveratrol and Pterostilbene are crucial anti-aging supplements.
- Resveratrol improves mitochondrial function particularly when combined with the cofactors CoQ10, Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Grape Seed Extract.
- From a 2010 Polish study evaluating the synergistic effects of trans-resveratrol and pterostilbene: At higher concentrations, an additive effect was observed. These protective effects may partially explain the health benefit of these bioactive microcomponents when together in the diet.
- An American 2007 study found that it promotes a healthy, balanced system especially when taken with Grape Seed Extract.
- The antioxidants have some chemopreventative and chemotherapeutic, inducing apoptosis, which is when old cells naturally die off. It's also chemopreventative and chemotherapeutic.
Resveratrol is one of the few anti-aging health supplements that's entered the mainstream and has become a household name thanks to clever lobbying on behalf of the red wine industry. Unfortunately to get an effective dose of Resveratrol 150 - 300 milligrams, you would need to drink about 40 glasses of red wine! Which is about ten times more wine than I would drink, even if I was celebrating something major!
Articles specifically on Trans-Resveratrol and Pterostilbene: 20
This pleasant herb has a spectrum of beneficial effects on the hormones and libido.
- From a comprehensive 2016 Korean review: [Tongkat Ali] is one of the well-known folk medicines for aphrodisiac effects as well as intermittent fever (malaria) in Asia... [It's] used as folk medicine for sexual dysfunction, aging, malaria, cancer, diabetes, anxiety, aches, constipation, exercise recovery, fever, increased energy, increased strength, leukemia, osteoporosis, stress, syphilis and glandular swelling.
- A double blind, placebo controlled study of 126 Malaysians found it was an immune hack; The results suggest that ingestion of [Tongkat Ali] enhances comprehensive immunity in both middle-aged men and women.
- A recent systematic Malaysian review of 11 clinical trials concluded... In summary, there is convincing evidence for the prominence of [Tongkat Ali] in improving the male sexual health.
I daily dosed it myself for several weeks and did not notice any classic Nootropic type effects, what I did really notice was the effect on libido, that it made my boners awesome! Even after I'd been drinking, or if I was wearing a condom or if I'd had sex a few hours prior.
Articles specifically on Tongkat Ali: +30
The Problem with Multivitamins
A savvy consumer might be thinking around now...
OK I understand why it's important to supplement these different vitamins, nutrients and Nootropics but can't I save myself money and inconvenience by just taking these as a multivitamin?
No, you want to take supplements in the same dosages that are demonstrated as beneficial in placebo controlled human studies. If you are taking them in dosages a lot lower than that there's no good reason to think that they will actually do you any good.
To which the consumer may respond...
Ok I understand that these different supplements all have different beneficial effects on my body and mind, if I take them ALL daily in smaller amounts (like in a multivitamin) won't the cumulative positive effect add up to the same benefit as taking greater dosages of them individually?
If there's 10 health supplements I want to take daily and I'm supposed to take 1000 milligrams of each daily won't I get the same (or even greater) benefit from just taking a 2000 milligram multivitamin daily that contains 20 different health supplements?
I realize that the dosage is lower but if I combine a bunch of different things isn't there a synchronicity of effects that exponentially is better than just taking them individually?
No. Taking small amounts of Nootropics or anti-aging supplements daily is, in general one of the best ways to minimize the benefit from them. If you want to waste your money this the supplementation strategy for you! Here's why...
You'll remember in the classic movie Princess Bride the hero defeats the villain by poisoning him with Iocane in a game of wits, they both drink the same amount of poison but the villain drops dead and the hero rescues the princess because the hero has gradually built up his tolerance to the poison by taking it daily for a while. Nootropics work the same way. If you give your body a little of them every day you'll build up a tolerance to them.
To hop to another metaphor, imagine that you had a girl friend (or a boy friend) that you gave a $100 a day, everyday. They would soon become spoiled and entitled and would likely grow to despise you and start sleeping the pool boy. But what if a couple of times a year you totally surprised them with extravagant $1000 gifts, they would likely be a very well behaved and loyal lover as they hoped for another intermittent reward and they would really appreciate it when they got it because they never knew when they were getting the next one.
Similarly, the economics of supply and demand underlie our evolutionary response to abundance or scarcity of resources needed by our neurobiology. This is why we have such an epidemic of obesity in developed countries.
Ergo, the smart supplementation strategy is cycling; get as many different high quality health supplements as you can reasonably afford and take them in the dosages that are recommended in the double blind, placebo controlled human studies. Take them as needed for the different demands of a given day or task;
- If it's winter and I feel like I maybe getting sick, I'll stack all my immune supplements and take them for a few days.
- If I have a crucial web development project to knock out and need to be super productive and focused for 8-12 hours I'll combine high dosages of 2 - 5 different cognitive enhancers and re-dose every 4 -6 hours.
- If I have a buddy's bachelor party coming up and am going to be doing some drinking; I'll Biohack my boozing with a bunch of different liver detoxifying vitamins.
- If I'm operating on only 2 hours of sleep I'll do a mega-dose of wakefulness promoting Nootropics that day to stay alert.
- If I'm taking a weekend vacation with my girlfriend and am going to be having a lot of sex, I'll double up on my libido promoting herbs.
You get the idea... What I would NOT do is take all of these everyday, unless I was using them in a specific protocol to address a certain health concern.
You'll notice that in the studies done they give the Nootropic in question to the human subjects for a period in between several weeks to several months. The better or longer term studies will often note a tolerance or plateau of improvement being reached after several weeks or months of usage. So there is good reason to cycle daily, weekly and monthly.
Perhaps there's a Nootropic that really works well for me. I'll take it 4-6 times weekly for a month and then I'll go off it for a month or two so that my tolerance resets. Once I run out of a supply of a particular Nootropic ingredient I like instead of just reordering it I will look for another Nootropic that has the same effects or a similar a mechanism and I'll try that.
My medicine cabinet is a bit more stuffed with well over 40 different bottles, vials and packages of different things but my pharmacological promiscuity is ultimately a more economical, fun and effective neurobiological performance enhancement strategy.
This article originally appeared on FocusSupplements.co.uk
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