Anne Diamond: An alphabet of vitamins and Nootropics
PUBLISHED: 11:18 15 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:18 15 November 2016
Anne's determined not to rattle her way through life but is keeping an eye on the brainiacs' latest 'must-have'
I don’t know about you, but I wake up in the morning really looking forward to my first (and usually only) massive mug of coffee. I sip it whilst absorbing the day’s news, and listening to my bubble bath run. I have no idea whether it’s the anticipation of that steaming brew, the caffeine in the coffee itself, or simply the ritual that puts a spring in my step. But heck, whatever! It works. It gets me out of bed. Nowadays, as well, I’ve tried to build into that routine a daily dose of vitamins - but not just any old vitamins.
Since I first interviewed, about 18 months ago, one of the world’s top researchers (from Oxford University) into Alzheimers, I resolved to take his advice as a warning against future cognitive fading. He’d done extensive study into how certain superfoods and high dose vitamins (particularly B) seemed to ward off dementia - and he recommended I try a super-strength vitamin B daily. He reckoned we should all take it.
So now, I go online to order this high dose vitamin and am hoping it works! Next we hear how we in the UK are all probably slightly deficient in vitamin D, and that a daily tablet would do us all good. Vitamin D deficiency manifests itself in tiredness, aches and pains, but apparently you can be deficient without knowing it. And so to calcium (often combined with vit D) which is always needed by women of a certain age. Before you know it, I’ve turned into one of those women I used to mock - you know? Those that would rattle, if you shook them, from all the pills they pop. But our culture is now turning that way.
Time was, a healthy diet was enough to keep you fighting fit. But we all work so hard and usually indoors, burn the candle at both ends, juggle children and career, we need extra support. And “mother’s little helper” nowadays isn’t the shot of gin that our grandmothers notoriously surreptitiously slurped, it’s these so-called smart drugs, or Nootropics. Not heard of them yet? Everybody’s talking about them darling - although not everyone admits to taking them…
The name is derived from the Greek for ‘mind’ and ‘bend’ or ‘turn’ and they’re a dizzying array of mostly online supplements, though some are prescription-only drugs and/or unclassified research chemicals, (some of which are being trialled in older people with fading cognition). The rage for them started in Silicon Valley, where brainiacs are striving in a fast-moving, mentally competitive environment to keep their minds sharp and their imaginations enhanced.
Sounds dangerous or at the least risky? You bet, but the trend has already moved across the Atlantic, and pervades our universities (some reports suggest that up to a quarter of students at some leading universities have experimented with them and professors are taking them, too!).
Now a whole generation of mums are talking about them on social media, desperate for something to help them cope with the pressures of modern life. It’s certainly worth pointing out that long-term safety studies in healthy people have never been done, and that the risks are unknown. It seems a terrible shame that we have evolved into a society where a balanced diet and a walk in the sunshine is no longer enough to sustain our bodies.
It certainly makes the urban fashion for superfoods, when we were all being bullied into including everything from kale and goji berries, chia seeds and seaweed into our five a day, seem like the good old days, doesn’t it?
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