​Nootropics is the Fyre Festival of the Supplement Industry

Stephen L Kanaval  |

Blame the movie Limitless. Yes, the Bradley Cooper movie about a wonder genius-enhancing brain drug. This movie, combined with a host of failed therapeutic options to treat Alzheimer’s Disease, has created a dangerous brain improvement fetish in our culture, and, globally, the market for brain supplements is expected to grow from $2.3 billion in 2015 to $11.6 billion by 2024.

The advertising for nootropics, a category of dietary supplements purported to improve memory and mental speed, and nutraceuticals, a fortified food-product promising health benefits, is often like a mix between Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand – who unsurprisingly sells nootropics – and Tyler Durden, except the first rule of nootropics is seemingly that everyone talks about nootropics.

Silicon Valley Snake Oil

Here is a quote below from Onnit Labs’ founder Aubrey Marcus on his Alpha Brain product: “I believe that a time is coming where taking nootropics like Alpha BRAIN will be a standard human adaptation to get things done. Like drinking coffee. Except in a lot of ways, I like Alpha Brain better than coffee. It has no stimulants and works by directly stimulating neurotransmitters. So it won’t wear out your adrenals. But if you like coffee, enjoy them both at the same time. Go ahead and be on fire. Laying down on the pillow after a long day of crushing it is one of the most satisfying feelings in life.”

Of course, this font is gigantic and accompanied by a video of a person skydiving and Joe Rogan saying deposition-style: “My ability to form sentences seemed smoother. It felt like I had another gear.” To summarize, and this is almost a direct quote from the page, if you are not using Alpha Brain, you are letting the competition get the better of you, and, since it retails at $67.96 per 90-count bottle, it goes to show that Alpha Brain is for solely boosting the middle to upper class. Ingredients for Alpha Brain include cat’s claw, also known as Uncaria guianensis, which has shown some evidence of being able to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but also has a laundry list of side effect including being used to abort babies, according to the NCCIH. Crushing it, indeed.

Qualia Mind is another nootropic on the market promising to help users “focus better, decrease procrastination, and have more energy. For most, benefits can be felt in as soon as 40 minutes, delivering calm energized focus all day.” In addition, the NeuroHacker Collective, who produces Qualia Mind, says the pill can heighten creativity and amplify willpower. According to the company and label, the supplement contains: “the rare Ayurvedic nootropic herb known as ‘intellect tree,’ Celastrus paniculatus.” The parlance “rare ayurvedic nootropic” is a mixing of the Indian alternative medicine with nootropics, a word invented by Romanian scientist Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1972, when he discovered piracetam, the first nootropic (As an aside, Cochrane, an independent network that assesses health research, has been reviewing studies of piracetam’s effects on people since 2000, and reports that there is insufficient evidence to confirm that the drug significantly enhances thinking or memory). All that said, the warning label says not to take Qualia Mind and the intellect tree if you drink alcohol (to that end, nootropics are not without their share of controversy and notoriety in the biotech community. In fact, a study commissioned by HVMN, another seller of nootropics, found that its own supplement was less effective than coffee, while another NIH report connected nootropics to an increased likelihood of obsessive-compulsive disorder and addictive behaviors). The supplement is currently sold out for initial shipments of $69.95 and $119 for following shipments.

BrainGear is another nootropic promising improved memory and a formula to “nourish the brain.” The company promises to improve health and happiness with a little special brain juice.

Neuro-Prophets and Lack of Regulation

At first, Alpha Brain, Qualia Mind, BrainGear and nootropics seem like just more bad actors operating in the unregulated space of supplements – I mean, even InfoWars has their own brand of nootropics – and lack of regulation is a major concern. In a meeting in Aspen, six former FDA commissioners lamented the consequences of the unsafe supplement market. When asked about the supplement industry, David Kessler, commissioner from 1990 to 1997, said, that unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA has to individually chase after rogue actors. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner from 2009 to 2015, said that the FDA does not have control over manufacturing and Andrew von Eschenbach, Commissioner from 2006 to 2009, cited the passage of the DSHEA limiting the FDA’s territory.

In Newsweek, David Pearce, founder of a nootropics advocacy group, Humanity Plus, said: "A vast unregulated drug experiment is currently unfolding across the world with the growth of online pharmacies selling all kinds of pills and supplements," Pearce says. "Many of the scientific studies often cited are small, unreplicated, poorly controlled, and don't disclose source of funding. [And] publication bias is endemic."

Felix Hasler in his book Neuromythology outlines how so-called “neuro-prophets” and even respected neuroscientists have promised a world where nootropics founders and participating clinicians are envisioning brains going from “caterpillar to butterfly.”

Hasler chides the brain research community, publishers and the media for propagating cortex-improvement euphoria culture. One of the minor points Hasler intends to make is that our current age has moved the human being from a social creature to that of an individual agent powering upward toward his elite potential. The problem is that we have decontextualized the brain’s growth and how we learn and process – usually done in the context of interactions or events – but now we are just sitting in our office hoping to achieve cortex quantum power.

Thanks, Bradley Cooper.

Equities Contributor: Stephen L. Kanaval

Source: Equities News

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer

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