Next Generation Nootropics

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Nootropics, pronounced like “Noah” (the guy with the ark), are also known as “smart drugs” or “brain boosters” or cognitive enhancers. 

I have an “explainer video” on YouTube here =

The word comes from “noo” for mind and “tropic” for changing, and these “mind-changing” substances help to enhance cognitive function, including memory, focus, and creativity. 

While nootropics can encompass a broad range of natural and synthetic substances, the main “problem” with the nootropic category is that most of them are just synthetic stimulants. This stimulant approach can undoubtedly give your brain a temporary boost, but that is often accompanied by tension, jitters and irritability – followed by a crash.

There are much better ways to not only “boost” brain function, but also to protect delicate neurons and actually encourage the growth of new neurons and neuronal pathways (known as “brain plasticity” – the process by which the brain learns and grows and adapts).

Using this new thinking around nootropics, I formulated a product called Amare Edge as a different type of “next-generation nootropic” that works in multiple ways to improve brain function. We launched the first version of Edge (watermelon) in April 2021 – and it was so popular that we had trouble keeping it in stock. That version became a Finalist for the 2022 NEXTY Award for “best new supplement” in the nutrition industry. In April 2022, we launched a new flavor of Edge (grape), and in January 2024, we launched an amplified version (Edge+) with a new flavor (mango) and an advanced formula.

Here are the key ingredients in Edge and their primary benefits – followed by a deeper dive into how each ingredient works together to deliver “motivation maximized”

  • Mango Leaf – Enhances cognitive and physical performance
  • Lychee Fruit – Balances cortisol, inflammation, and blood glucose
  • Palm Fruit – Increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and dopamine production
  • Citicoline – Sharpens focus and increases dopamine receptor density
  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Enhances memory
  • Natural Caffeine – Reduces mental fatigue

Mango Leaf has a long history of use in tropical areas where mangoes are grown as a “body and brain tonic” to elevate mental and physical energy levels. Recently, mango leaf extracts have been shown to be high in anti-inflammatory compounds called xanthones and one in particular known as mangiferin. In clinical trials, these high-xanthone/mangiferin extracts enhance mental energy (cognitive performance, brain electrophysiology, and reaction time) and improve sports performance (higher power output, reduced fatigue, and accelerated post exercise recovery).

Lychee Fruit is extremely rich in highly-absorbed polyphenols, including catechin monomers and proanthocyanidin oligomers, and has been shown to reduce stress hormones (cortisol) and inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and IL-1beta), while balancing blood sugar in a 4-week randomized controlled trial. Each of these metabolic benefits is important for optimal brain function, and in longer-term clinical trials (8-weeks), lychee fruit has also been shown to reduce body weight, waist circumference (by more than an inch; 3cm), and visceral (belly) fat by 12% (compared to baseline and placebo over 10 weeks). Even longer studies (12-weeks), lychee fruit has been shown to improve skin tone, texture, smoothness, and resiliency (reduction in appearance of freckles/blemishes and wrinkle length/depth).

Palm fruit contains a highly unique collection of water-soluble polyphenols (shikimic acid and several derivatives referred to as “palm fruit bioactives” or PFBs) that support benefits across all “3 brains” (gut/heart/head), including profound antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification benefits for every tissue in the body. Of particular note, PFB has been shown to inhibit beta-amyloid aggregation, potentially protecting the brain from the age-induced neuron damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. PFB has also been shown to increase levels of nitric oxide synthase and higher levels of nitric oxide, leading to vasodilation of blood vessels; improved oxygen delivery to the heart, muscles, and brain; and overall improvements in physical performance and mental fitness. Recent clinical trials on PFB supplementation in moderately stressed subjects have shown a dramatic increase in oxidation-reduction potential (ORP), suggesting not only that PFB can directly protect cells from stress, but it can also enhance the internal cellular machinery that allows the cells to protect themselves. In addition, PFB supplementation resulted in a 22 percent improvement in levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a major contributor to neuronal plasticity (how the brain grows), and with improved mood and memory as well as substantial improvements in psychological mood state (50 percent lower depression indices and 25 percent lower fatigue indices), suggesting a dual heart-brain benefit improving both mental and physical performance.

Citicoline is a form of the B-complex nutrient choline, found in foods such as eggs and fish (which is why your grandma called these “brain foods”). Citicoline improves cognitive functions, such as focus and problem solving, because it supports production of cell membrane phospholipids and serves as a precursor for the production of the “focus neurotransmitter” acetylcholine. Citicoline has been shown to help improve memory and reduce confusion in patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia; promote regeneration of neurons in people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI); and reduce mental fatigue in athletes during exercise (what I would call enhanced “mental fitness).

Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) contains bioactive compounds that stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein essential for the growth and maintenance of nerve cells. Studies suggest that Lion’s Mane may enhance memory, improve focus, and support overall brain health – which is why it is sometimes called “memory mushroom.” Some studies suggest that even a single dose of lion’s mane can reduce stress and improve speed of memory performance within as little as an hour.

Natural Caffeine – most of the caffeine that you’re going to see on the market is synthetic – which is cheap and OK if you want a fast “hit” of energy (because it is absorbed so quickly). Unfortunately, synthetic caffeine is also metabolized quickly, so that fast “hit” is also followed by a fast “crash” – so people end up taking “more” caffeine than they really need and end up with caffeine side-effects such as jitters, anxiety, heart palpitations, and sleep problems. Natural caffeine, on the other hand, whether it is extracted from green tea or green coffee beans or other plants like guarana, delivers a much more “sustained” delivery of energy because it is absorbed and metabolized slower due to the presence of phytonutrients like catechins and polyphenols. This means that natural caffeine gives a more gradual onset of energy (less “hit” and fewer side effects) as well as a longer lasting sensation of alertness (without the “crash”).

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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