'Nootropics’ gain momentum as 'smart pills’

San Francisco Chronicle
By Victoria Colliver
April 25, 2015

Like many young tech workers, 24-year-old Dennis Qian wants to have enough stamina to work at peak concentration levels yet still have the energy to maintain a social life outside his long hours on the job.

The San Francisco resident tried high-octane Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy shots while in college, but his caffeine sensitivity made him feel jittery rather than focused. After doing some research, he started experimenting with combinations of supplements known as “nootropics,” or vitamins for the brain.

“If you’re working in a startup, you’re working maybe 10, 12 hours a day. That leaves me about five or six hours a night of sleep,” Qian said. “I don’t want to make compromises. Sleep is great, but if I can maintain my performance during the day … with just a few supplements like nootropics, I’d gladly do that.”

Nootropics are a broad category of cognitive-enhancing supplements that include a range of compounds to improve memory, focus and mood. They come in the form of stimulants such as caffeine, vitamins like B6 and B12, fish oil and mood enhancer SAMe, and natural extracts as well as chemical compounds and enzymes to increase activity in the brain or boost metabolic function. And as people like Qian seek to gain a mental edge, some turn toward “bio-hacking” their way to better biology.

Continue reading on the SF Chronicle homepage.