Tag Archives: Nutrition

Questions about a supposed brain tonic

27 Jan

Wired raises questions about a product called NeuroSonic.

“The students gave half their 35 participants (average age 24; 27 men) a cup of NeuroSonic (roughly equivalent to one bottle); the other half had a placebo drink designed to taste and look similar. The placebo was a concoction of coconut-pineapple flavored water and strawberry-flavored vitamin supplement. Crucially, the placebo had none of the psycho-active ingredients of NeuroSonic, and no-one was able to identify which drink was which based on appearance or taste.

After a 20-minute wait to allow the NeuroSonic drink to exert its claimed effects, the participants engaged in a battery of six cognitive tests. On reasoning ability, visual-spatial memory, reaction time, control of one’s own brain waves, and executive function (the ability to ignore irrelevant information), there were no differences in performance between the two groups. However, on short-term memory – measured via the ability to recall lists of numbers – the placebo group actually out-performed the NeuroSonic group.”


Learning project: Jeff Novick’s Fast Food

20 Jul

I often joke that the reason I spend my summers in Chautauqua is for the pleasure of shopping at Wegmans.

This week my shopping trip took on a new aspect because of a new learning project: I am going to experiment with Jeff Novick’s “Fast Food” approach to cooking. Novick makes the following claim: that you can make a nutritious plant based meal in only ten minutes. This sounds like a pretty good idea; time management and good nutrition! I am going to give it a try.


One immediate problem is that Novick’s program relies heavily on tomatoes, they are included, in some form, in just about every recipe. As it happens, beyond spaghetti sauce, I don’t really like tomatoes and my wife finds them too acidic. So, in order to make this work, I will have to find some substitutes.

I’ll let you know how things work out.



Memory myths #2: Ginkgo biloba?

24 Jun

Can we improve memory by just taking a pill?

Claims for supplements like ginkgo often follow a predictable story arc: initial claims are made based on small poorly controlled studies or population correlations. Supplement companies heavily promote these products, but when rigorous experimental trials are finally conducted no evidence of effectiveness is found. One should always keep an open mind and I have tried my share of these supplements. Unfortunately, our best evidence, suggests that Ginkgo biloba does not enhance memory and I no longer take it. In fact, there is some evidence that Ginkgo may be toxic.

This does not prelude the possibility that supplements or dietary manipulation might improve memory, but we should pay more attention to rigorous scientific research than advertising hype.

One piece of scientifically sound dietary advice: a balanced plant based diet will reduce your risk of dementia.

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