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Better focus through chemistry? Brain enhancement supplements face increasing scrutiny

A model showing the inside of the brain, corpus callosum, bran stem, and cerebellum.
A model showing the inside of the brain, corpus callosum, bran stem, and cerebellum.
Photo by Shannan Muskopf via Flickr Creative Commons

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Better focus, improved memory -- those are the benefits touted by a booming cottage industry of nutritional supplements.

They are called “nootropics” -- and their popularity among consumers are raising regulatory concerns, given that some of these supplements may be considered prescription drugs in other countries.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has no oversight of these supplements, which allows these products to flood the market. 

We reached out to the American Medical Association for comment. An AMA spokesperson is not available at the time of our segment, but responded by email:


“Responding to the safety concerns generated by a growing personal use of nootropics, physicians in 2016 adopted AMA policy discouraging the nonmedical use of prescription drugs for cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals.”



Andrew Shao, interim senior vice president, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a D.C.-based trade association for the supplements industry

Peter Lurie, M.D. president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit consumer-advocacy group; former associate commissioner for Public Health Strategy and Analysis at the Food and Drug Administration