Supplements sold to improve brain health and functioning, dubbed nootropics, often contain unapproved and likely dangerous drugs, recent research published on Wednesday says.
The study found drugs illegal in the U.S. in the nootropics and discovered that the drugs might be in much higher doses than the label reads or in combinations that weren’t previously tested on people.
Nootropics, also known as smart drugs, have quickly become one of the supplement industry’s fastest-growing segments.
They are sold as products that can “enhance” the brain, boosting creativity and protecting cognitive decline or memory loss.
However, the reality is a bit harsher – The evidence for nootropics is modest at best and non-existent, according to the combination of chemicals inside.
According to the study’s author, Pieter Cohen, another significant problem with supplements is that they often are sold with pharma-grade ingredients that aren’t approved in the U.S. by the FDA or even undergone clinical testing.
The team’s newest study say that nootropics are in the same situation:
“You’re talking about combining drugs that have never been in combinations tested in humans. So we have absolutely no idea what the adverse effects of that could be.”
Cohen, a researcher and doctor at Harvard Medical school, said that the first flag was that the products were readily available at all.
The law on which products are labeled as supplements in the U.S. isn’t too strict. However, trying to sell lab-made ingredients that were studied or approved as drugs in other countries is restricted.
Cohen managed to find some of those supplements in a National Institutes of Health database, which included no warning about the drugs’ illegal status.
Aside from that, the brands tested often featured dosages of the drugs that were very different from what the labels claimed (if the titles even included a dosage).
Some brands had dosages up to four times higher than the approved dosage from similar versions of the drugs outside of the U.S.