Thanks Shin for a useful introduction to part of a very complex topic. Seven years ago I co-founded a company that made use of research on micro-nutrients essential for adequate cognitive functioning; we utilized only data that was statistically significant and which also had been replicated in multiple trials by at least two other independent teams (this was essential, because so many studies are unfortunately poorly designed and produce non-repeatable results, rendering them worthless). We worked with leading researchers around the globe and after 18 months arrived at a formulation comprising 15 different micro-nutrients. That alone indicates the complexity of brain chemistry. What we found was that while modest cognitive improvements (as measured by standardized tests covering seven different areas of function such as working memory, task accuracy, etc.) can be seen when ingesting individual compounds, the effect of a properly balanced formulation is cumulative. We ran a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study with an initial intake of over 130 participants randomized for relevant factors such as age, educational attainment, socio-economic status, etc. and the trial duration was 90 days. We saw two very interesting effects. The first was that performance of the experimental group (the one receiving our formulation each day) showed rapid cognitive improvement, up to 100%+ compared to the non-changing control group. Furthermore, unlike the case with so-called nootropics and stimulants such as caffeine, the effects did not attenuate at all over the 90-day trial period but remained persistently. We speculate that the human brain, in order to function close to its optimum capacity, requires a careful balance of at least the 15 micro-nutrients we provided in our prototype product. Without these (which did include omega-3 fatty acids) the brain functions less well. What was really shocking for us was the fact that the 100%+ improvements were seen not only in subjects who normally ate a very poor diet but also in subjects whose diets would be regarded as “good” by most common measures (e.g. balance of different intakes, not too much processed junk, enough fruits & vegetables, etc.). We speculate this is because even a supposedly adequate diet remains insufficient to provide the quantities of micro-nutrients required, not least because decades of poor agricultural practices have led to soil erosion and therefor the loss of essential elements that used to be present in tiny quantities but are now largely absent.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.