A new study from 2022 conducted by researchers at Swinburne University, Melbourne, has found that the cognitive and mood benefits of nootropic supplements depend on the dietary status of those taking them.
With 141 participants in the study – some with ‘optimal’ diets and some with ‘sub-optimal’ diets – results showed that those who had an 'optimal' diet before supplementation experienced improved attentional performance along with lower state anxiety and mental fatigue.
The study was a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial and examined the effect of a multi-nutrient nootropics supplement containing B group vitamins, Bacopa Monnieri and Ginkgo Biloba on memory, attention, mood, and biochemical markers of nutrient status in participants over 12 weeks.
The participants were all middle-aged adults with an average age of 52.84 years. A mixed model and repeated measures analysis revealed that compared to a placebo group, active treatment was associated with significant increases in levels of B1, B6, and B12.
"These findings suggest that the cognitive benefit of B vitamin and herbal supplementation may be dependent on diet quality, supporting the concepts of ‘co-nutrient optimization’ and interdependency of nutrients."- Young, Lauren M., et al. "Investigating the Effects of a Multinutrient Supplement on Cognition, Mood and Biochemical Markers in Middle-Aged Adults"
However, with regard to behavioral outcomes such as memory and attention performances, there was no significant benefit across the sample.
While this did not support the primary hypothesis of the study, a closer investigation revealed that individuals with an 'optimal' diet prior to supplementation had significantly improved attentional performance when given active treatment.
Moreover, a number of additional secondary outcomes showed positive effects of supplementation even in the absence of a main effect. These included lower state anxiety and mental fatigue levels in specific subgroups.
This study provides valuable insight into the effectiveness of nootropic supplements when the user has already established an optimal diet.
For those attempting to improve their attentional performance and emotional regulation, adding supplemental nutrients can be beneficial in alleviating anxious states and mental fatigue.
Importantly, when a balanced diet is absent, these supplements may not provide enough benefits to be worth taking. This research makes a case for incorporating certain dietary supplements as part of an overall health practice if one is looking for better emotional or cognitive performance.
- Young, Lauren M., et al. “Investigating the Effects of a Multinutrient Supplement on Cognition, Mood and Biochemical Markers in Middle-Aged Adults with 'Optimal' and 'Sub-Optimal' Diets: A Randomized Double Blind Placebo Controlled Trial.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 29 Nov. 2022, https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/23/5079.