If you’re a habitual user of vitamins, you have likely experienced the quintessential vitamin-buyers’ conversation. You’re standing in whichever store you frequent, pursuing the vitamin choices when some well-meaning stranger decides to offer a helping hand. The helping hand is usually delivered with a snicker and air of superiority – which makes you wonder whether the true aim of your new friend is at all friendly. “Vitamins?” They coolly question you. “You know you’re just buying expensive urine, right?”
The general idea is that after you have a certain level of vitamins in your system, your body won’t absorb anymore and it will just be deposited into your urine. To a certain extent, it’s true. Of course, given how many of us have serious vitamin deficiencies, you may very well absorb your daily multi-vitamin. The reference to drugs not being absorbed, however, is more relevant when you’re talking about nutrients meant to flow into your brain.
It is called the blood brain barrier and it is real. The blood brain barrier acts as a gatekeeper between your blood and your brain and it is a pretty good gatekeeper. If your supplements aren’t getting through, they certainly aren’t kick-starting your neural synapses. Dr. Farsa from the Institute of Chemical Drugs in the Czech Republic has come up with an interesting system for determining whether a given nootropic will make it past this diligent guard.
Using chromatographic behavior and fancy mathematics, Dr. Farsa tested whether acetamidophenoxyacetic acids – analogues of piracetam, nefiracetam and meclofenoxate – could make it past the brain blood barrier into the brain. He found that the existence of a carboxyl group in the nootropics would lead to poorer absorption of the substances. In contrast, without this chemical group the blood barrier was more willing to allow access via simple diffusion.
Next time you’re in the market for nootropics, take a look at the delivery system and the chemical composition of your chosen brand. If you’re going for simple diffusion, choose one that doesn’t include a carboxyl group.