Monday, May 4, 2009

Nootropic Battle: Acetyl-L-Carnitine vs. Ginkgo Biloba vs. Taurine

Cognitive enhancers are popular among students.
Nootropics are popular among students as learning aids. (Photo by xb3)

Recently, I've been writing quite a bit about various supplements marketed as nootropics, a term which encompasses pretty much any substance with claimed cognitive enhancing effects. The ones we've covered so far are carnitine, ginkgo biloba and taurine.

Probably the most promising supplement out of the three is carnitine (as L-carnitine or acetyl-L-carnitine). In aged rodents, carnitine improves learning ability and memory while protecting the brain from aging. Even though the human data is not as conclusive, several studies nonetheless show that carnitine can treat mental decline and depression. In addition to its cognitive effects, carnitine may improve physical fitness in old people and protect from exercise-related oxidative stress.

Less clear is the case for ginkgo biloba. Some people swear by its effect on memory and mood, others think it's a complete waste of money. Perhaps surprisingly, several studies have been done on ginkgo biloba and cognition. While some of them do suggest that ginkgo biloba may be an effective natural treatment for dementia and stress-related cognitive decline, it's difficult to say how it works in healthy people.

Probably the one that has the least science behind it in terms of cognition is taurine, which is often added to energy drinks for its claimed stimulant properties. Even though taurine seems to be effective in protecting from acute neurological damage, the evidence for taurine as a brain booster in healthy people is lacking. A few studies suggest it may protect the brain from some of the effects of aging and improve mood, but it's difficult to draw any significant conclusions as of yet.

To see for myself whether any of these three have an effect on learning, memory, energy levels and mood, I have decided to start an experiment using carnitine (as acetyl-L-carnitine capsules), ginkgo biloba (also as capsules) and taurine (in powder form). I will first try each supplement separately, starting with low doses and increasing the dose if there is no effect, and then in combination with the others.

Success and failure will be measured by my subjective evaluation of how I'm feeling (i.e. do I feel energetic, happy, smart, able to concentrate, etc.) and also by seeing how well I do in the memory game I'm playing for my intelligence experiment after taking each supplement. This won't tell us much about the possible long-term effects, of course, but at least I will know whether any of them are worth the money as nootropics.

Ladies and gentlemen, the three-way cognition battle between carnitine, ginkgo biloba and taurine has begun!

For more information on brains and intelligence, see these posts:

Caloric Restriction Improves Memory in the Elderly
Moderate and Severe Caloric Restriction Alter Behavior Differently in Rats
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Mitochondrial Damage and Lymphoma Incidence in Aged Mice
Anti-Aging in the Media: Rolling Stone on Ray Kurzweil

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8 kommenttia:

Anonymous August 25, 2009 at 1:15 AM  

To imporove memory and recall I re-read the text several times. As a meth amphetamine cooker I have cheap and easy access to all the stimulants I need to get though the day. I would not recommend this for others since meth is concidered harmful for the brain. However excersise, ginkgo and huge doses of vitamin e and omega 3 protects the brain from damage. My doctor did want me to stop and put me on perscription amphetamine, but it just did not do it for me. September 28, 2009 at 7:27 AM  

will we hear an update on this any time soon? thanks, great blog.

JLL September 28, 2009 at 10:03 AM,

Yes, I will do an experiment conclusion soon.

Anonymous December 3, 2009 at 4:22 AM  

This year?

JLL December 4, 2009 at 9:48 AM  


Thanks for reminding me -- tell you what, the next post will be the conclusion to this experiment!

Dr3Tri April 9, 2011 at 4:11 PM  

I have NOT tried carnitine but your description of its effects remind me of what i have read from carnosine.

Wikipage reminds not to be confused between two.
I have read a lot about carnosine and E-EPA, and have used those about 5 years now.
I noticed nice memory enhancement in few months.
It was difficult to tell what exact moment i had better memory of course.. so my capabilities propably grew little by little at that time.

I have no experience of Ginkgo Biloba or Taurine.

OK. I have good memory now but recently i got into studying problems after having burn out symptoms.
I made some rest and tried to study again but i had lost my ability to concentrate!
I could read just a few lines of text before my thoughts started to run wild in god knows what topics!

So, i got interested about nootropics after finding some informative threads in forums and experiments like yours here.
I have got an impression that Piracetam would practically cure my current concentration problems.

Too bad that they are not prescription free in finland where i live.

It's invented at 60's and studied a lot.
LD50 value is out of the limit so its about as safe as water but buying it practically makes me criminal.

It's SO not right.

Anonymous August 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM  

LOL on the first anonymous comment!

and dude... any updates? which one of those 3 contenders do you deem the 'winner'?

JLL August 16, 2012 at 8:19 PM  


The conclusion can be found here:

Nootropic Battle Conclusion: Acetyl-L-Carnitine vs. Ginkgo Biloba vs. Taurine

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