[Transcript] – What Are The Best Brain Supplements And Smart Drugs To Shut Down Brain Inflammation And Make You Smarter?

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Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/brain-podcasts/best-brain-supplements/

[00:00] Introduction

[01:36] How Steven Got into This Field

[04:25] Brain Inflammation

[10:34] Shutting Down Brain Inflammation

[13:35] Getting Smarter or Increasing IQ

[17:56] Anti-Inflammatories for the Brain

[31:05] The Non-Smart Drug Supplements Steven Uses

[36:16] Safety of Pharmaceutical Smart Drugs

[39:59] The Legality of Smart Drugs in WADA

[45:37] End of Podcast

Ben:  Hey, folks.  It's Ben Greenfield here, and if you're someone who's interested in increasing your mental performance, your focus, maybe jacking up your IQ a few points, or just shutting down brain inflammation, then today's podcast is for you.  My guest is an organic chemist, a neurobiochemist, a nutritional formulation consultant, and really an expert when it comes to improving the well-being of your mind and your mental performance.  He's been studying health, nutrition, and metabolism for over four decades.  He runs the website over at ProjectWellbBeing, which you can check out at projectwellbeing.com, and his name Steven Fowkes, and the guy is a wealth of information.  I've had the pleasure of seeing him speak, actually down at Dave Asprey's Biohack Your Life Conference in San Francisco.  And he also has a great presentation that's out there online called “Nutrients for Better Mental Performance”.  I'll be sure and link to that for you in the show notes to that video.  But today, we're going to talk all about how to enhance your brain.  So, Steven, thank you so much for coming on the call.

Steven:  It's a pleasure.

Ben:  Now, this seems like a unique field.  I got to admit, I'm not really familiar with too many people who are kind of experts in things like shutting down brain inflammation, and smart drugs, and things of that nature.  So, can you tell me a little bit about your background and kind of how you came to study in this field?

Steven:  Well, I had an interest when I was young in the area of chemistry.  I had kind of pyromania tendencies as a child and I did a movie in high school about filming a burning plane, and it was a model plane, and lit it on fire, and filmed it slow-mo, and stuff like that.  When I got into college, I got interested in the whole idea of how the mind worked and my grandfather developed Alzheimer's disease as a consequence of living in Los Angeles, and being a dentist, and having emphysema, smoking cigarettes and stuff, and developed and died of Alzheimer's disease.  And so, that interest of mine became entrenched at that point because he was, on some level, a significant mentor to me and sparking my interest in a variety of subjects from archaeology and American-Indian culture, to astronomy.  So, over the years, I started looking at the issue of what causes Alzheimer's disease, what causes dementia, looking at schizophrenias and all kinds of cognitive conditions, and realized that there was a very strong physiological basis for all these conditions, and brain chemistry was a way of understanding them.

Ben:  Interesting.  And so, what you've done up to this point is basically, you wrote a book on it, correct?  In the field of…

Steven:  Yeah.  I've written six books, one of which was co-authored with Ward Dean and John Morgenthaler about smart drugs.  They wrote the first book and I helped them with the second book.  I've published 70 newsletters on the subject of smart drugs, I've lectured about it to Google employees and to various groups throughout the Bay Area, I have done volunteer work for how to prevent mental retardation in Down Syndrome children.  So, I've been involved in this from many different perspectives.

Ben:  And your website over at projectwellbeing.com is actually a wealth of information.  I've spent a fair bit of time exploring that site, and I'll link to that in the show notes for folks.  But I think a really good place to start here, Steven, is this whole term of “brain inflammation” and what it actually means.  Because while I certainly know that we're going to get into getting smarter, increasing your IQ or your mental performance, I think it's really important that we understand what might hold us back from that.  So, can you explain brain inflammation and what exactly that is and what its implications are?

Steven:  Yes.  The brain is unique among all of our organs in our body and being very energy intensive, the brain burns hot.  The brain burns as much energy as the heart does when you're exercising, and the brain doesn't take breaks.  In other words, your brain burns basically identical amount of energy if you're attentive versus if you're daydreaming, if you're awake versus asleep.  So, the consequence of inflammation to the brain is rather dramatic because of this very, very high energy requirement that the brain has and the ability of inflammation to interfere with energy metabolism.  And when you have inflammation in your body, part of your body becomes hyperactive and its energy goes way up, and that's the immune system.  And part of your body kind of hibernates, and that's the rest of the organs of your body.  And so, anytime you have inflammation, your liver function's going to go down, your heart function's going to go down, your muscle function's going to go down, your healing of your tissues is going to go down. And when your brain energy goes down, you get brain fog, you get memory problems.  And if there's enough straws heaped upon the camel's back, you could even develop Alzheimer's disease.

Ben:  Wow.  So, when we're talking about the inflammation that occurs in the brain, is the type of inflammation similar to what you'd experience if you were to, say, sprain your ankle or tear your muscle lifting weights, or is what happens kind of on the neural level something different in terms of the chemistry of brain inflammation?

Steven:  It's very much the same.  Except that when you sprain your ankle and you're healthy, the inflammation mostly stays in your ankle.  And so, this is part of the, I'd say the pathology of modern times is as we lose our energy, as our bodies brownout, as their light bulb dims, we lose control of something called redox potential, which is the opposite, it's the dynamic between something being oxidized, like our atmosphere, and our body being reduced, which is the opposite of oxidation.  And when our bodies are healthy, we're able to maintain a reduced environment so that any oxidative stress from a sprained ankle, for example, remains contained to the ankle.

And so, there may be some leakage of the inflammatory process out into the vascular system that will get to your heart or into your brain, but it's relatively minor.  But as we age and as our metabolism slows down, we lose roughly 1% of our metabolic rate every three years as we age.  And so, our ability to contain that implementation becomes minimized and it starts spreading out.  And so, if somebody who has a serious health problem from something like fibromyalgia, to an autoimmune disease, to classic hyper metabolism, that inflammation, in a sense, poisons their entire body.  The oxidation spreads through their entire body and affects much more than it would otherwise have to.  And this is what I really mean by the issue of brain inflammation, I mean you can have brain inflammation if you have, let's say, a viral infection of the brain, encephalitis, and that certainly is inflammatory, and you have an infection of the blood-brain barrier that's localized in the brain.

But most brain inflammation is spread from the body to the brain, which accounts for the commonality of things like brain fog or getting sleepy in the afternoon and needing to take a nap even though you're at work and that's entirely inappropriate, having senior moments where you forget somebody's name when you're introduced to them at a party.  These kinds of things are endemic in our society and they're so common that we take them for granted.  We don't even recognize that they're pathologies.  We don't even recognize that there's something wrong.

Ben:  So, what can we do when it comes to protecting the brain against inflammation or shutting down inflammation that might be present?

Steven:  Well, keep our metabolism up.  Whether that's exercise, taking dietary supplements that promote mitochondrial activity, engaging in diets where you're restricting carbohydrate and encouraging fat burning metabolic processes, detoxing from heavy metals like having your amalgam fillings removed from your mouth, there's many different ways this can go.  Food allergies is probably one of the most common ones where people develop digestive problems and they can't really process the gluten in wheat, for example, and everything is made with wheat in our society today.  And if you don't want to eat wheat, you have to really go out of your way.

Ben:  Now food allergies sounds like it might be, and we've talked about that on this show before, it sounds like that might be one big win for people would be to, for example, test food allergies and eliminate common food triggers that might cause brain inflammation.  Are there some other… you mentioned mercury fillings.  Are there some other big wins for people when it comes to shutting down brain inflammation that you think are some of the things that are going to make the biggest difference or some the things that are most common among folks when it comes to creating this brain inflammation?

Steven:  Well, that's an exceedingly good question.  I mean, it goes to the heart of what we're talking about here.  And the answer is that nobody really understands the proportion of each of these kinds of inflammatory influences that are present in our modern society to the whole, the contribution to the whole.  So, in a particular person, fluoride toxicity may be dynamic and active.  And if they somehow either stop using fluoride toothpaste or stop drinking fluoridated water, that could have a big effect on their health, and somebody else, it may have no observable effect on their health whatsoever.  So, this is the real problem that we have with our society today, we can point to things like aspartame in our diet drinks, and we can look at fluoride in our toothpaste, and we can consider the plastic, plasticizers, estrogen mimics that are found in plastic water bottles so that the water that we drink has a small amount of estrogen in it.

We can look at these kinds of things and say each of these is a negative influence on our metabolic rate.  But because there's, I can probably rattle off two dozen of them that are factors that have been identified, which ones are the ones that are most important is not that well understood because they're all happening at the same time.  We don't have a control, we don't have any studies that are done when the government specified that chlorine and drinking water was producing, couldn't be used anymore because it was producing chlorinated hydrocarbons that are carcinogens.  They didn't do any studies on the health of using chloramine, which they now put in the water supply.  So, there's a dozen, two dozen, four dozen experiments, uncontrolled experiments taking place in our modern society today.  And so, we're often put in an awkward position of trying to remedy something where we really don't know what the cause is.

Ben:  Yeah.  Interesting.  So, I think that a lot of people that listen into this show, for example, they're trying to make healthy decisions like filter their water or test themselves for food allergies or food intolerances and avoid foods that might be triggers.  Some people are even going as far as avoiding fluoridated toothpaste and some of these other things.  But what about actually taking it to the next level, looking at this from more of like an ergogenic standpoint in wanting to use some of these tactics to get smarter or to increase IQ?

Steven:  Yeah.  That's great.  And there's some really good ways to deal with that.  And it comes down to how you create a biofeedback loop and know that something that you're doing is either working or not working in a particular person, in you, or somebody else that you care about.  So, that's the self-care movement for you in a nutshell.  How do you create metrics?  How do you measure your intelligence so that you can tell whether stopping chloride is affecting your intelligence or not?  And more importantly, if you want to address the issue of functionality directly instead of trying to remove these minor toxic insults and inflammatory insults that are cumulative, why not try to intervene on a more functional level to say, “Okay, I want to raise my metabolism.  I want to keep my metabolism high.”  How would I measure that to know that what I'm doing is effective in along those lines.  And if you measure your intelligence, if you play games and you keep score about how well you're doing on a given time, you can do, if you have a neurological condition, you can do proprioception testing of knowing where your finger is with your eyes closed and the end of your nose, you can do balance testing, reaction time testing.  If you've got a skill set that you can play, juggling, how well can you do at juggling, and memory, how well do you play chess or play bridge.  These are all ways of getting at that issue of how well you're doing.  And in my opinion, the brain is the perfect thing to pay attention to to make these kinds of decisions.

Ben:  Now are there resources when it comes to, say I wanted to test my IQ, I wanted to see if, for example, eliminating dairy had an effect on my reaction time or on my IQ.  Are there specific books, or phone apps, or games, or something like that that would allow me to quantify this?

Steven:  Absolutely.  And they're coming out so rapidly now because of the success of the quantified self-movement.  I've been doing self-testing and qualification for 40 years, and I almost felt like a wanderer in a wilderness in a sense because very few people really understood why I would do that kind of thing.  But there was enough people spread around that when the quantified self-movement formed, all of these people like me who were out there in the world just kind of converged on it and it's one of the more rapidly growing movements around.  And as a result of that, you can go to, let's say, quantified-mind.com, quantified-mind.com, and there are a dozen tests that you can take on a regular basis and it's not like you have to keep score because the computer program does that for you.  So, you can just pay attention to creating the new habit of doing this testing on a regular basis, doing some kind of gaming on a regular basis where the game has what I call a cascade failure built into it where the game gets harder, and harder, and harder over time.  And when you start to make mistakes, each mistake makes it harder as well.  So, you reach this point when all of a sudden the game overwhelms you, and so that set point of where that game overwhelms you when it changes, it moves forward or backwards in time based on your improved metabolism, on your better brain chemistry, you actually see it and know that what you did yesterday, or last week, or last month is now having its effect.

Ben:  Now, you've talked a little bit here, and by the way, I'll link to that on the show is for folks, this Quantified Mind website.  It's got some fascinating information on it.  You've talked a little bit about omission, kind of getting rid of some of the things that might cause brain inflammation.  But what about some of the things that we could take when we're looking at this from like a supplementation or a “smart drug type of standpoint”?  What kind of things can help us, well specifically rather than starting off talking about smart drugs or something like that, what kind of brain anti-inflammatories are out there?  Herbs, or adaptogens, or supplements, things like that.

Steven:  There's a lot.  And the smart drug books certainly get into that, and now there is a dozen smart drug books out there.  And it varies from stuff that people take for granted, that don't have much sex appeal like B complex vitamins, to things like Piracetam and Deprenyl as smart drugs where they actually are pharmaceuticals.  And everything in between, herbal products.  So, there's a huge amount of stuff that people can do, and my recommendation is always to start with the non-glamorous stuff, B complex vitamins.

Ben:  The B complex vitamins?

Steven:  And nutrients.

Ben:  Now even when you look at something like…

Steven:  They don't get the respect.  It's like the Rodney Dangerfield of smart drugs is ordinary B vitamins.  These are critically involved in the brain.  They're often deficient in people.  I mean, one-third of grade school, high school kids have a sufficient B complex vitamin deficiency that it impairs their academic performance.  And when they're given these vitamins, they have a 10-point IQ increase in less than a year.

Ben:  Now aren't B vitamins poorly absorbed?

Steven:  No.

Ben:  So, you don't need it in a liposomal sublingual or anything of that nature?

Steven:  No.  There are people who do have some polymorphisms in their genes that might require higher-than-average amounts of some of these B vitamins where they need to be addressed in the coenzymated form instead of the raw material from which our body would ordinarily make them.  So, sometimes people can experiment with those coenzymated forms where they pay 10 or 100 times as much per milligram of nutrient, and they'll find out it's worth it.  But usually, they do respond to the non-coenzymated form beforehand.  So, going to the more exotic and the more biologically optimized vehicle is just another step along the pathway towards improved functionality.

Ben:  Gotcha.  So, we've got this B vitamin complex.  What are some other kind of common things that folks can find readily available?

Steven:  Yeah.  I take two smart drugs on a regular basis, actually pharmaceuticals.  So, if you look at the ratio of things, I take 50 things that are nutritional, natural nutritional factors, and then I take two things that are actually pharmaceuticals.  So, that tells you the kind of skewed emphasis that I have against pharmaceuticals as a general modality.

Ben:  And what are the things that you take?

Steven:  You mean in terms of pharmaceuticals?

Ben:  Both.  In terms of the stuff that's common and the stuff…

Steven:  In terms of pharmaceuticals, because there's only two of them, that would be Piracetam and Deprenyl are my two favorite smart drugs of choice.  And I use Piracetam all the time, and I'm using it right now for this podcast.  I've got a glass of Piracetam dissolved in water right here in front of me, and I periodically take sips of it, and it helps me integrate left brain, right brain function so that I have better verbal abilities.  So, it kind of mitigates what I call testosterone poisoning where, prenatally, there is the effect of testosterone is to lateralize the brain so that the right side of the brain and left side of the brain function more independently of each other than without that testosterone influence, and this results in superior spatial abilities and three dimensional visualization skills and such.  But the cost of that is that it impairs verbal abilities, and language abilities, and writing abilities, and probably most famous, multitasking abilities.  And so, when I take Piracetam, it helps compensate for that improves the left brain and right brain integration, so I develop kind of rudimentary skills that would be common with the more female-structured brain or integration of left and right signs, and more verbal abilities.

Ben:  Interesting.  So, you're kind of giving yourself a little bit of that woman's intuition?

Steven:  Well, I don't say that's how I would do it.  But the classic thing of women being multitaskers and being very verbal is certainly the prejudicial stereotype of this kind of thing.  And it's very prejudicial because not all women have female-structured brains and not all men have male-structured brains, but I just happen to know, in studying all this, that I have a highly male-structured brain.  My mind is very three dimensional.  Even though I do admit to not wanting to ask for directions when I'm lost, I usually don't get lost.

Ben:  Yeah.  What about if a woman were to take, a woman with a typical kind of brain balance that you'd be going after by taking something like this Piracetam?  What if a woman takes it?  Will she not be as affected as you?

Steven:  My feeling is yes, that that would be the case.  And that this idea of brain lateralization, if you don't have high lateralization, then taking Piracetam wouldn't give you that kind of benefit because it's a benefit that you already have inherently.  However, Piracetam also has some other benefits.  So, for example, it's a remedy for altitude sickness.  So, let's just say you live in the city of San Francisco basically at sea level, and you do your job there, you exercise there, your body is used to that kind of air pressure and that level of oxygen.  And you decide, “I'm going to go skiing in Lake Tahoe, go to Heavenly Valley,” you're at 7,000, 8,000 feet, you go up into the lift and you may be at nine or 10,000 feet, and you get a little bit light headed.  And when you're skiing down the hill, you're more likely to run into a tree, or fall over, or take the wrong path, run into somebody because of that light headedness.  And because of the oxygen challenge to your muscles, you may only make two runs a day because at the end of the second run, you're just exhausted.  And if you take Piracetam, that all changes.  Your mind gets clear, focused.  You can do four runs a day because your muscles are, they're not impaired as much by the challenge.  And at the end of the day, you've got that mental power to party as well.

Ben:  Yeah.  Which is a positive…

Steven:  So, you could be a businessman flying in an airplane where that's pressurized to, let's say, 7,000 feet and where you want to work on your presentation while you're flying, and because you get a little bit fuzzy headed and the brain fog takes over, you can't do that, Piracetam can fix that for you.

Ben:  Now, how is Piracetam any different than something like Aniracetam, which is actually something that I personally use about once or twice a month or so when I got to go up on stage and speak or something of that nature.

Steven:  Well, they're very similar in structure, and some of the functions are similar as well.  I can't say I know all of the nuances of how those would be different for different people…

Ben:  Kind of a similar group though?

Steven:  Yeah!  Absolutely.  Aniracetam, Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam, they fall into that same kind of category.  So, it's kind of like, with B complex vitamins, you got a lot of B vitamins.  You take a B complex, you get a benefit from it.  Well, you have an option at some point to take apart the B complexes and see, is your response due just to B6 or B12, or is it B1, 2, and 3.  So, you can take Piracetam and determine what it does for you, and then you can then switch to Oxiracetam or Aniracetam and see does it offer something more, or does it have a different time frame, is there some benefit to it.  I mean, smart drugs is like clothing.  You never want to just buy clothing sight unseen, you go into the store, you put on the clothing, you look at yourself in the mirror, you make a decision about the style, the fit, the comfort, the color.  And if something is wrong, you don't use it.  You do the same thing with smart drugs.  You try it all on and see what works for you.

Ben:  Now, you also mention that there is another one that you take.  Did you say Deprenyl?

Steven:  Yeah, Deprenyl.  The United States has a different name for it called Selegiline.  But Deprenyl is how it's known in the world, and Deprenyl is an example of an entirely different category of drug what I call a neuroendocrine resensitizer.  It, in a sense, reverses one of the known mechanisms of aging, which is the aging of the neuroendocrine system.  And so, when you take Deprenyl, I like it for two reasons.  One is that it has a short-term effect to raise dopamine levels, and dopamine is about drive, and accomplishment, and effectiveness, assertiveness, and sexuality. So, middle aged men, when they lose their drive and they lose their sexuality, when they take Deprenyl, it's like boom, they're born again, it hits them where they live.  It's very easy to sell Deprenyl to a middle-aged man or an older man.  But women, even though their sexuality isn't wired as much or as frequently into the dopamine levels, issues of accomplishment, and assertiveness, and kind of the visceral part of being alive, that's as much relevant to women as it is to men.  But the neuroendocrine benefits, they take three months to accumulate, and it causes the hypothalamus to become more sensitive so that the hypothalamic pituitary axis works better.  And so, it in a sense, rejuvenates people in a physiological sense.  And I think this is profoundly beneficial.

Ben:  Do you have to have a prescription to get either of these two that you've just finished talking about?

Steven:  No.  Not technically.  Maybe it's better to say not practically.

Ben:  I get Aniracetam, for example, from Dave Asprey's website, from his upgraded supp website.

Steven:  And I've gone online and found sources for Piracetam.  And even though it's a pharmaceutical, and Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, Pramiracetam, they're all technically pharmaceuticals, they don't occur in nature, they're being sold on an over-the-counter basis, I would say, in technical violation of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.  But the FDA doesn't seem to be doing much about it.  They've sent out a few warning letters and one company will stop selling it, and then two other companies spring up and start selling it, so it's kind of like the Wild West out there regarding this kind of thing and there's some reason for consumers to want to be careful about what they're doing.  Deprenyl is a prescription drug.  It's approved in the United States.  There's Eldepryl, which is the premier brand, and there's at least two generic brands out there.  And so, it's supposed to be done on a prescription-only basis.  But anybody who wants to in the United States can buy it from overseas and import it using the FDA's Personal Use Importation policy and get it without a prescription.  And so, if you want to do it with a prescription, your doctor's amenable, that's fine.  If your doctor isn't, you have this kind of backdoor way of getting it.

Ben:  And now with the whole Silk Road/Bitcoin thing, it may not even matter. Anyways though, I wanted to ask you about some of the other things that you mentioned that you use.  Because you said that in addition to these two smart drugs, there are also some of the things that might be considered more natural dietary supplements or non-smart drug kind of supplements, and what would those be that you use?

Steven:  The plain things.  B complex vitamins, minerals certainly, trace minerals.

Ben:  Just like the trace liquid mineral or…?

Steven:  Well, I don't take them in a liquid form, but you can.

Ben:  Why would you take something like that?

Steven:  Oh, because minerals are cofactors for enzymes, and enzymes are critical to the brain.

Ben:  Gotcha.

Steven:  Anything that's nutritional, if it's missing, produces the same kind of deleterious effects as a drug.  A drug goes in and interferes with something in the body, and a missing nutrient also interferes with something in the body.  So, if you have a nutrient deficiency, it is impairing you as if you were taking a drug, could impair you.  And doing that therapeutically can be useful as well, so people take drugs to interfere with something purposefully and people may, for example, deliberately induce a folic acid deficiency when they're trying to treat cancer.  So, there are ways in which these kinds of things are parallel.  But going on to something that's more relevant to this issue of metabolism would be something like mitochondrial nutrients.  Coenzyme Q, lipoic acid, carnitine as the gatekeeper for the flow of fat and long chain fat into the mitochondria to be burned.  So, those would be examples of supplemental interventions and dietary regulation.

Ben:  Interestingly, those are many of the same type of supplements recommended to support metabolism in someone, for example, for fat loss.

Steven:  That's right.  And they're classic drugs smart drugs in the nutrient category.  So, acetly l-carnitine, for example, has a worldwide reputation as a smart drug, and it's just the kind of facilitated version of carnitine that you would get by eating meat.

Ben:  Now you mentioned that you do the trace minerals, the B complex, some of these metabolic support type of nutrients, which I know are found in, as we mentioned, some of the fat burners, some of the whole food anti-oxidants like the Coenzyme Q10 and things of that nature.  Anything else that you personally use or implement?

Steven:  Well, let me point out something that I don't use, but it's very, very valuable to people.  Nutrients also can serve as neurotransmitter precursors.  A precursor is something that is the starting material for making a neurotransmitter or some other chemical.  But for neurotransmitters, something like choline, choline is converted in the body into acetylcholine.  Well, that's a B5 dependent process.  So, you can raise your cholinergic tone by taking B5, which is what I do.  Or you could add choline or phosphatidylcholine, or GPC choline, or DMAE, which is demethylated choline.  You can add that to the regimen to improve cholinergic tone.  And choline, or acetylcholine is very, very important because not only does it dramatically drop with age, but because it's involved in both low-level motor control functions, reaction time, coordination, dexterity, proprioception.  But it's involved in high-level functions, intellect and memory.  And so, if you lose your cholinergic tone, you become unfocused and you lose your intelligence, you lose your memory abilities, and this is selectively one of the neurotransmitter problems that occurs in Alzheimer's disease.  Now I happen to be very cholinergically robust naturally.  So, I can't take cholinergics easily without becoming cholinergically overstimulated.  But 90% of people out there are cholinergically deficient and should be looking at choline supplements as a smart drug intervention.

Ben:  Interesting.  I actually take a cytocholine derivative with, I take an adaptogenic herb complex that has a ecklonia cava, which is a brain anti-inflammatory, and a cytocholine, and a few other things in it.  I use one called tianchi for that and I've actually combined that with the Aniracetam before and found that it gives quite a potent one-two punch.  Now we should definitely make sure, I think, that we hit on the potential for addiction and safety of these type of things, not quite so much with the natural stuff, like the alpha lipoic acid or the antioxidants, but with some of this other stuff that you talked about, like the Aniracetam, or the Piracetam, or the Deprenyl.  What is the addictive potential and safety of smart drugs like this that would be considered pharmaceuticals?

Steven:  Well, that's already built into the situation, in the sense that you look at something like drugs that increase neurotransmitters and you say, okay, Deprenyl is a choice because it's safe than something like Strychnine is not safe, and so nobody talks about it even though it's a smart drug.  It's like what the therapeutic dose to the toxic dose gets within 50-50, or 50%, then if you make a mistake and take twice as much, you're dead.  I mean, that's just not smart at all no matter how you stretch the term.  So, these are very safe compounds.  And the compounds that are smart drugs that are dangerous, nobody talks about them.  Only people who use them are people being given prescription drugs.  Let's say, calcium channel blockers would be used in the medical profession to treat senility syndrome, when I would just say give somebody magnesium.  So, electrolyte balance has a huge role that plays in the brain, and magnesium is one of those things that's very deficient in most people.  And when you have calcium toxicity, which is the opposite electrolyte from magnesium, it specifically encumbers the brain.  The brain has to pump the calcium ions out every time a nerve fires, and so it just, as the calcium load gets heavier, and heavier, and heavier, the job that the brain has to do to maintain its electrical signaling becomes more and more difficult and you end up with senility syndromes as a result of this.

Ben:  Now when you say that this stuff is safe, have there actually been long-term research studies or anything like that done on addictive potential or safety?

Steven:  Yeah.  But addictive potential typically isn't studied on those kinds of levels, and oftentimes neither is safety.  People will, Piracetam, you can look at it in animals and say, “Well, we just can't kill animals with Piracetam.”  The LD50 is beyond what can be administered through oral supplementation.  Plus, the therapeutic dose for an adult is a quarter of the therapeutic dose for a newborn human infant who only weighs eight pounds.  So, that goes to the question of safety and makes it very difficult for anybody to argue that Piracetam is and of itself in any way a danger to anybody.  Certainly, the only addictive potential it has is psychological, where you try it and go, “Wow.  This is working great,” and you don't want to do without it.  It's not that you can't do without it.  You can easily do without it, but you just decide that this is like exercise, that you just feel better.  And when you don't exercise, you feel bad.  And nobody says that that's addiction, even though technically one can say it looks exactly like addiction.

Ben:  I see.  Now on a related note, there are a lot of athletes, a lot of people who are like triathletes, and marathoners, and people competing in sanctioned sporting events who are listening into a show like this.  Now do you happen to know if there are things that people should definitely avoid when it comes to these kinds of pharmaceuticals for enhancing mental performance when it comes to, for example, passing a World Anti-Doping Association type of test or something like that?

Steven:  I really don't know the answer to that question.  I mean, it's a good one.  But my guess is is that if anybody has an athlete and they'd have to be paying attention directly to whatever regulatory bodies they have to answer to to know that and they'd have to do it you know continuously, because these things are always going in and out of fashion and the list of things that you're not supposed to take is growing longer and longer all the time.  Nothing seems to ever come off the list.  But anything that benefits your mind and helps you with your ability to do strategy during a long distance race and to pace yourself then to augment one's automatic responses in a given sport so that you don't have to think about exactly how you're holding the tennis racquet when you're returning a ball, you just focus on strategy issues, all of that has to do with how well your brain is doing and how well your mind is doing.  And so, smart drugs certainly play into that in a big way.  The whole issue of what they consider fair and unfair has nothing to do with the physiology, the risks benefits, and that kind of stuff.  It's a kind of moral, or ethical, or value decision, and that's based on things that are entirely subjective.

Ben:  Yeah.  I actually, while you were answering that question, I did look up just briefly, and I'll be sure that I link to this for folks who are listening in, because I do know that a lot of athletes listen in, it looks like Phenylpiracetam is actually on the banned substances list by the World Anti-Doping Agency due to its ability to potentially increase physical stamina and provide improved tolerance to cold.  So, there's that, interestingly.  I mean, I know that I personally, as I'm going into triathlon season here, do not plan on touching Aniracetam just in case because I don't like to take any chances.  But I'll continue to take a lot of these natural things that you've gotten done talking about that are incredibly natural useful, like the B complex, and the trace minerals, and the coenzyme Q10, and some of these antioxidants, and amino acids, and phosphatidylcholine.  I know that all of those are 100% approved and okay.

Steven:  Well, B5 is very good for stamina.  But if you take it regularly, it attenuates so rapidly that it's not of much practical.  Use if you were to take huge dose of B5 before a race without never having, not having taken it before, you would have an amazing stamina advantage for that particular race.  It would only really work that well for that one race.  So, it's not practically of much use for, let's say, competitive athletes and for people who are doing a sport on a professional basis.  It's necessary not to have a B5 deficiency, but the loading of B5, the body rapidly attenuates it.  And so, the body has its own wisdom and any time you push on something, the body may push back.  And so, something like thyroid hormone, for example, or testosterone, if you take either of those, there's a feedback loop, a negative feedback loop that will diminish your natural production of thyroid hormone or testosterone.  And so, if you then stop, you will crash.

Ben:  Yeah.  It makes sense.  Now, you've been so generous with your time today, and I know we're coming up here pretty quickly against time, but there are so many facets of this that I know we haven't explored, and I will certainly link to your list of books that you've written over on Amazon because you've got Smart Drugs, series one and series two, you've got a book on Serious Nutrition, several books on mood enhancement, and a whole variety of things that people can delve into and read.  You've also got your website over at projectwellbeing.com.  You mentioned the quantified-mind.com website.  Any other resources that you'd like to share with folks or point them to as we wrap things up here?

Steven:  Well, I'd link to resources as I find them.  And so, right now, I'm doing that on Project Wellbeing where I have a Steve page.  And when I find a link to something or I start up a new website, I put a link there to that site.  So, I'm about to start up some video blogging where I'm going to be talking about all kinds of health issues and YouTube videos, and so I'll put a link there to that kind of content.  But people can find my stuff scattered all over the internet just by putting my name into a search engine, and I even find stuff that I didn't know was on the internet.

Ben:  That happens to me sometimes too.  Like how did that get on the internet?  Interesting.  Well, this has been fascinating, and I'll be sure and put as many links as possible in the show notes for folks over at bengreenfieldfitness.com.  But, Steven, I want to thank you so much for your time today and for coming on the call.

Steven:  It's been fun.

Ben:  Alright, folks.  Well, this is Ben Greenfield and Steven Fowkes signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.  Have a wonderful day.


The way I see it, there’s two things you need to worry about when it comes to your brain: 

  • Keep your precious neurons and brain tissue protected from damage (AKA “brain inflammation”);
  • Do everything you can to maximize your focus, IQ, acuity and mental productivity.

If you can nail this one-two combo, you’ll not only beat brain fog and think more clearly, but you’ll also be more intelligent, have more dynamic conversational prowess, enhance productivity, solve problems more quickly, tackle difficult situations more efficiently, and have a mind that operates the way it’s supposed to – despite how many toxins, stressors and pollutants you encounter in your daily life.

Today, in this audio interview with mental nutrients expert Steven Fowkes, you’re going to find out the best brain supplements and smart drugs to shut down brain inflammation and make you smarter, and you’re also going to discover the hidden lifestyle triggers that could be making your brain sluggish and holding you back from your true mental potential.

During the interview, Steven tells us:

what brain inflammation is and how it’s caused…

how we can protect our brains…

how we can get smarter and increase IQ…

the difference between natural supplements and “smart drugs”…

the addictive potential and safety of smart drugs…

what works BEST when it comes to supplements for getting smarter or enhancing focus…

what would be considered “illegal” in sports…

and much more!

Keep reading to listen now and to get access and links to the best brain-building resources…

Additional Brain Building Resources & Stuff We Talk About During This Podcast

If you dig this interview, I’d highly recommend:

Several times per week, use the CNS Tap Test app to track nervous system performance and reaction time…

Several times per week, use the N-Back phone app to track and build your IQ…

When you have a bit of extra time on your hands, explore Quantified-Mind.com

This TianChi and SuperEssential Fish Oil brain supplements pack, used every day…

A vitamin B complex mixed with antioxidants, used every day (the one I use is called “Lifeshotz”)…

One to two shots of trace liquid minerals every morning…


If you’re a hard-charging athlete, have a protein deficient diet, or you’re vegan/vegetarian, consider adding in essential amino acids at 5-10 capsules per day….

Take 500-1000mg Aniracetam combined with 1-2g Phosphatidylcholine, used sparingly before high mental demanding activities…

If you really want to get serious, look into the pharmaceutical drug “Deprenyl” that Steven recommends during our talk, which he refers to as a “neuroendocrine resensitizer” (AKA “Selegiline”)

Explore any of Steven Fowkes’ books on Amazon…

Steven’s Google Tech Talk on “Nutrients For Better Mental Performance” video

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