Alpha Brain™, the flagship cognitive enhancer from Onnit™ Labs, is marketed as a natural, fully balanced nootropic, and current research on the ingredients listed supports the suggested use. The formula combines Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline, Huperzia Serrata, Vinpocetine, AC-11®, Bacopa, Pterostilbene, Mucuna Pruriens, Gamma Amino-Butyric Acid, Oat Straw and Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) to collectively produce an effect designed to enhance memory, focus, athletic performance and REM sleep cycles. With a very strong safety profile and significant research on the ingredients contained within Alpha Brain™, there is evidence in support of Alpha BRAIN™ providing the body with the nutrients to create enhanced cognitive performance for healthy adults.

Alpha GPC – 120mg

Alpha GPC is included to increase available amounts of acetylcholine in the body. Glyceryl phosphoryl choline is heralded as the most effective form of choline for acetylcholine production because it has been shown to cross the blood brain barrier easier and more rapidly than other forms of choline such as lecithin or choline bitrartate[0]. Acetylcholine is a powerful neurotransmitter which is found both in the peripheral nervous system and in the central nervous system. There is scientific evidence that shows that increased levels of acetylcholine in the body can dramatically increase memory and cognitive ability of men and women of all ages[1]. A study performed by Sangiorgi Barbagallo at the University of Palermo studied 2044 candidates who suffered from recent stroke or transient ischemic attack. The study concluded that administration of GPC choline confirmed its therapeutic role in improving cognitive ability in this group of study subjects.

In addition, scientific studies have shown that increased dietary intake of choline can improve athletic performance. A study documented in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition by Ralf Jager in July 2007 evaluated ten long distance runners in a double blind, crossover, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The runners either received 2.8 g of choline citrate or a placebo one hour prior to and after the completion of 10 miles of a 20 mile run. The results of the study revealed that plasma choline levels increased in the supplemented group and decreased in the placebo group. The mean run time of the supplemented group was 153.7 minutes, whereas, the placebo group’s run time was diminished at 158.9 minutes. The results of this study are encouraging for the use of choline supplements to enhance athletic performance. It should be noted that this dietary supplement will not aid in athletic performances that require short periods of strength, speed or accuracy.

Huperzine A / Huperzia Serrata – (200mcg)

Derived from Chinese club moss, the active ingredient in this dietary supplement, Huperzine A, has been shown to act as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme found in the human body that causes acetylcholine to break down into choline and an acetic acid. If acetylcholinesterase is able to act uninhibited, the powerful neurotransmission properties of acetylcholine will be neutralized. Huperzia Serrata has been used for millenia in Chinese medicine, but recently there have been scientific studies that have proven the presence of Huperzine Serrata has neuroprotective effects and enhances cognitive function in animals and humans. A study perfomed by RW. Zhang at the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences in Hangzou, China in 1991 evaluated the efficacy of Huperzine A in the treatment of dementia. The study was a random, match, double blind study which focused on 56 patients with senile dementia or multi-infarct dementia and 104 patients with senile and pre-senile memory disorders. The group with multi-infarct dementia was administered 0.05 mg of Huperzine A via intramuscular injection twice a day for four weeks, the memory disorder group as administered 0.03 mg of Huperzine A via intramuscular injection twice a day for four weeks, saline was administered to the control group. The results of the study revealed Huperzine A to have significant anticholinesterase activity. It should be noted that throughout the clinical trial process, no unexpected toxicity was reported in response to administration of Huperzia Serrata and only a few patients exhibited slight dizziness which did not affect the therapeutic effects of Huperzine A.[7]. It should also be noted that if you are currently taking any medication that acts as a cholinesterase inhibitor, a physician should be consulted prior to beginning consumption of Alpha Brain™.

Vinpocetine – 5mg

Rounding out the primary trio of cognitive enhancers is vinpocetine, a semi-synthetic extract derived from a substance called vincamine which is a component of the common periwinkle plant, known scientifically as vinca major. Vinpocetine has known vasodilatory effects which make this chemical effective for treating inflammation and inhibiting hair loss. A twelve week clinical trial examining the effects of oral vincopetine was performed in Hungary in 2007. This study was designed to show the efficacy of a twelve week regimen of vinpocetine on the severity of mental deterioration on patients with ischemic stroke and mild cognitive impairment. The patients were examined under resting conditions and in the presence of chemical stimulus. Cerebral blood flow of patients was assessed using transcranial Doppler in resting conditions and after thirty seconds of breath holding. Cognitive function was assessed by the use of psychometric tests. The results of this clinical trial revealed that patients who received oral vinpocetine had improved cerebrovascular reserve, improved cognitive status and improved overall condition when compared to patients who did not receive oral vinpocetine.[9]

AC-11® – 350mg

Another crucial component of Alpha Brain™ is AC-11®, which is licensed under an agreement with Optigenix Inc. AC-11®.  Formerly known as C-Med-100, AC-11® is a proprietary extract obtained from uncaria tomentosa which is native to the South American rainforest. This substance has been used in South American medicine for centuries for treatment of conditions such as inflammation, cancer and infection. Each pill of Alpha Brain™ contains 350 mg of AC-11®. A human volunteer study performed in Sweden in 2001 confirmed the fact that AC-11® effectively reduced DNA damage and promoted leukocyte recovery and DNA repair. In addition, the administration of AC-11® revealed no drug related toxicity as measured by patient symptoms, serum blood chemistry, whole blood analysis and leukocyte differential counts.[10] In addition, another Swedish study performed by R.W.Pero at the University of Lund revealed that 14 patients who were treated with AC-11® for four weeks showed benefits of reduced pain, reduced fatigue, weight loss and decreased presence of DNA damage.

Bacopa -500mg

Bacopa is an aquatic plant native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. This plant has been used for centuries in India as a medicinal treatment in Ayurveda, which is considered alternative medicine in the United States but accepted as traditional medicine in India. A study performed by S. Goswami which was published in the International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine and Public Health confirmed the efficacy of bacopa to increase cognitive function of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The study was an open label, non-randomized study. The study consisted of 39 patients with a mean age of 65.23 years who have been newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Each patient was administered 300 mg of Bacopa twice a day for 6 months. The results of this trial revealed the administration of Bacopa extracts yielded improved cognitive function for geriatric patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.[12]

Pterostilbene – 250mcg

Pterostilbene is a compound known as a stilbenoid which is chemically similar to the well known antioxidant resveratol, found abundantly in blueberries. Antioxidants are compounds that rid the body of free radicals, which exacerbate cell damage and cause disease in the human body. There are well documented studies of the antioxidant effects of resveratol and its abilities to protect against many diseases such as heart disease and many forms of cancer. Clinical studies have also proven that pterostilbene offers similar antioxidant benefits and protective effects as reseveratol when administered in similar quantities.[14] A study performed by AM Rimando at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2002 evaluated the cancer chemoprotective and antioxidant activities of pteostilbene. The results of the study revealed pterostilbene significantly inhibited herbicide induced oxidative damage, showed moderate inhibition of cyclooxygenase, an enzyme in the body responsible for production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are lipid compounds derived from fatty acids which can induce pain and swelling in the human body. Therefore, inhibition of cyclooxygenase can have therapeutic effects for inflammation and swelling. In addition, this evaluation also revealed pterostilbene significantly inhibited carcinogenic induced preneoplastic breast lesions. [15]

Mucuna Pruriens – 200mg

Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume native to India and the Caribbean, which is commonly referred to as velvet bean or cowitch. Mucuna pruriens has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to increase libido in both men and women. This substance produces these effects due to the fact that it contains a considerable amount of L-dopa, the building block of dopamine. Dopamine plays an important role in many brain functions such as cognitive abilities, voluntary movements, sleep, mood, attention, memory and learning. Therefore, administration of mucuna pruriens, with high concentrations of levodopa, can help boost the brain function regulated by dopamine. In addition to the aphrodisiac properties of mucuna pruriens, clinical studies have proven that this substance has antioxidant properties which offer protection against neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.[19] A study performed by AK Admani published in Pharmacotherapeutics in 1985 evaluated the effects of levodopa on elderly patients with Parkinson’s disease. The study consisted of 60 patients with Parkinson’s disease. Patients were assessed before treatment, after one week of treatment, after three weeks of treatment, after 6 weeks of treatment and at the end of the 12 weeks of treatment. The results of the study yielded patients who were administered levodopa showed improvement and less disability stemming from symptoms of Parkison’s. In addition, the levodopa group showed increase in their daily independence than the non treated group.

GABA – 300mg

Alpha Brain™ is also a very rich source of gamma amino-butyric acid, otherwise known as GABA. GABA, in the human body, acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Unlike neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine which stimulate the brain, inhibitory neurotransmitters are used to relax the brain, regulate moods and moderate sleep patterns. There are several studies that have proven a correlation between the administration of GABA and healthy sleep patterns. In addition, clinical studies have also proven the effectiveness of GABA on reducing symptoms associated with many neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety, epilepsy and bipolar disorders.[20][21]

Oat Straw (10:1) – 300mg

Oat straw, scientifically referred to as avena sativa, is also a component of Alpha Brain™.   There is considerable literature that states that the consumption of oats and oat products offers benefits such as treatment for exhaustion, depression and stress. Oatstraw contains very high quantities of chemicals called avenanthramides which have antioxidant benefits. A study performed by Mohsen Meydani at Tufts University in 2006 revealed that avenanthramides contained within oatstaw had blood pressure lowering benefits and also relaxed smooth muscle contractions. This data is useful because reducing blood pressure and relaxing smooth muscle, the symptoms associated with exhaustion, depression and stress will be alleviated. With the results of the Meydani study and the documented relaxing effects of oatstraw due to the presence of avenanthramides, current research is being performed to evaluate the efficacy of oatstraw on such hyperactive disorders such as ADD and ADHD. Positive preliminary results should encourage further research on oatstraw as a viable option for treatment of these disorders. [26]

Vitamin B6 – 15mg

The final ingredient contained within Alpha Brain™ is  vitamin B6, scientifically known as pyridoxine.  Pyridoxine is an important vitamin for humans due to the fact that it promotes the production of several neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA, melatonin, and norepinephrine, which are essential for mood regulation, anxiety and pain perception. In addition pyridoxine is essential for regulation of the body’s internal clock and regulation of sleep habits.[24][25]

There is scientific evidence that the components of glyceryl phosphoryl choline, huperzia serrata, bacopa and vinpocetine all have benefits to increase cognitive function, memory and focus. GPC choline has also been shown to benefit athletes who compete in sports requiring feats of stamina such as marathons and triathlons. The presence of the substances GABA, oat staw, and pyridoxine have been linked to balanced mood, regulated bodily rhythms and the promotion of healthy sleep patterns. Alpha Brain™ has the additional benefit of containing high powered antioxidants such as pterostilbene, AC-11® and mucuna pruriens. In a variety of peer reviewed studies AC-11® has been shown to help the body’s natural ability to repair its own DNA, enhance the immune system and inhibit pro-inflammatory agents.

In conclusion, Alpha Brain™ is scientifically justified in marketing itself as a powerful nootropic product that helps the body to provide many desirable effects such as enhanced memory, focus, increased athletic performance and the facilitation of healthy sleep cycles. Many scientific studies have been performed evaluating the efficacy of all components of this product and positively confirmed the safety of human consumption for each ingredient. With no known conflicts in the ingredients listed, it is logically sound to assume that the individual benefit of each ingredient will be robust, and while it cannot be proven without further testing, there is sound reason to believe that the ingredients as combined have a synergistic effect which accounts for the robust anecdotal reports from users.

Robert Shifko received his Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Medicine from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He continued his education receiving graduate level certification in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Drexel University Graduate School of Public Health. With 18 years experience in a health care setting he has certifications in Nuclear Medicine, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Radiation Health Physics. He currently performs research for the University of Pittsburgh Department of Pharmacology and assists in the creation of standardized tests for medical professionals.

0. 1. Parnetti L, et al. Choline alphoscerate in cognitive decline and in acute cerebrovascular disease: an analysis of published clinical data. Mech Ageing Dev 2001 Nov;122(16):2041-55.

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