Anyone who has ever used nootropics knows how powerful they can be.1Ruchi Malik, Abhijeet Sangwan, Ruchika Saihgal, Dharam Paul Jindal, Poonam Piplani, Towards better brain management: nootropics Curr Med Chem. 2007
The nootropics market is full of great products that genuinely can boost your brain’s power by improving your mood, focus, and memory.
Especially when paired with the right diet and lifestyle habits, taking nootropics can make a profound difference in your life.
However, not all nootropic brands are created equal.
In fact, there are plenty of nootropics that would serve you best to avoid.
In this review, we discuss one of the top nootropics that I would recommend avoiding, Cognium.
What Is Natrol Cognium?
Natrol Cognium is a stimulant-free brain health supplement with a concise ingredient list.
It’s available for purchase at Walgreens, GNC, and Amazon.
For me personally, the fact that its sold by these retailers alone is a red flag. I often try to dissuade readers from purchasing nootropics from these specific retailers, specifically Amazon, for quality assurance purposes.
One tablet contains 100 mg of CERA-Q powder, which in turn holds 60% of a silk protein hydrolysate, and that’s it.
Silk protein is extracted from the threads of silkworm cocoons (Bombyx mori).
CERA-Q is the branded name of Brain Factor-7 (BF-7), a peptide extracted from silkworm cocoons.
A 2009 study showed that BF-7 improved brain function for attention and cognitive flexibility in children3Kunwoo Kim , Subin Park, Hanik K Yoo, Jun-Young Lee, Hee-Yeon Jung, Do-Hee Kim, Hyun-Jung Lee, Jin-Young Kim, Young-Chul Youn, Maurice R Marshall, Sung-Su Kim, Yoonhwa Jeong, Brain factor-7 extracted from Bombyx mori enhances cognition and attention in normal children J Med Food. 2009.
However, this study has not been replicated in a double-blinded placebo clinical study, which would be the appropriate way to attest to the accuracy of the results.
What is Cognium Good For?
Natrol Cognium claims to keep your mind sharp and improve your memory in as little as four weeks.
It is recommended to improve memory and recall in healthy adults.
It also enhances mental agility by improving cognitive function, leading to a more alert and focused mind.
Is Cognium Safe?
Cognium is safe and stimulant-free.
However, some minor side effects such as headache, dizziness, excitability, and general discomfort can occur and have been reported by users.
CERA-Q is a relatively new discovery.
Therefore, more thorough research is needed to understand the potential side effects of the active ingredient (60% of the tablet) and the fillers (40% of the tablet).
As with other supplements, you should inform your doctor about your current medication list before taking Cognium because there is the possibility of interaction with other drugs or over the counter products.
Cognium should not be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women.
This is simple since Cognium contains only one ingredient: a peptide derived from silk protein hydrolysis called Brain Factor-7 (BF-7) and sold under CERA-Q’s trade name4Yong Koo Kang, Boo Yong Lee, Luke R. Bucci, and Sidney J. Stohs, Effect of a Fibroin Enzymatic Hydrolysate on Memory Improvement: A Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Study Nutrients.2018.
Typically, most nootropic supplements use supporting vitamins and minerals for enhanced absorption.
Natrol Cognium does not include any supporting ingredients, a worrying concern that makes us question its absorption process.
It includes, however, lots of additives and preservatives.
These fillers include:
- Dicalcium Phosphate – a diluent commonly added to tablets or capsules to make them large enough for swallowing and handling5N. V. Mulye, S. J. Turco, Use of Dicalcium Phosphate Dihydrate for Sustained Release of Highly Water Soluble Drugs Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy. 1994.
- Microcrystalline cellulose – an excipient commonly added to solid drug formulations for its excellent compressibility6Anis Yohana Chaerunisaa, Sriwidodo Sriwidodo and Marline Abdassah , Microcrystalline Cellulose as Pharmaceutical Excipient Microcrystalline Cellulose as Pharmaceutical Excipient, Pharmaceutical Formulation Design – Recent Practices. 2019.
- Maltodextrin – a highly processed sugar additive made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat.7Denise L. Hofman, Vincent J. van Buul, and Fred J. P. H. Brouns, Nutrition, Health, and Regulatory Aspects of Digestible Maltodextrins Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016
- Glycerol monostearate (GMS) – a food additive emulsifier used as a preservative agent. Notably, a recent study in rats showed how GMS aggravates male reproductive toxicity caused by other factors.8Hai-Tao Gao , Hong-Yi Shi, Qi-Meng Dai, An-Qi Li, Liu Yang , Yue Sun , Si-Yi Jin, Ling-Zi Xia , Glycerin Monostearate Aggravates Male Reproductive Toxicity Caused by Di(2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate in Rats Curr Med Sci. 2019
- Croscarmellose sodium – an FDA-approved disintegrant commonly used in pharmaceutical manufacturing.9M S Gordon, B Chatterjee, Z T Chowhan, Effect of the mode of croscarmellose sodium incorporation on tablet dissolution and friability J Pharm Sci. 1990
- Silicon Dioxide – also known as silica, a food additive commonly used as an anticaking agent. Recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) raised concerns regarding silica as a food additive because it may contain nano-sized particles that could be harmful.10EFSA, Re-evaluation of silicon dioxide (E 551) as a food additive EFSA Journal. 2018.
- Stearic Acid – a saturated fatty acid mostly used in dermatological formulations such as soaps and detergents. Evidence suggests that stearic acid induces toxicity in circulating angiogenic cells, potentially contributing to endothelial damage11Valentina Spigoni , Federica Fantuzzi , Alessia Fontana, Monia Cito, Eleonora Derlindati, Ivana Zavaroni, Miriam Cnop, Riccardo C Bonadonna, Alessandra Dei Cas, Stearic acid at physiologic concentrations induces in vitro lipotoxicity in circulating angiogenic cells Atherosclerosis. 2017.
- Magnesium Stearate – a safe additive that prevents the individual ingredients from sticking to each other12Cheryl A. Hobbs,Kazuhiko Saigo, Mihoko Koyanagi, and Shim-mo Hayashi, Magnesium stearate, a widely-used food additive, exhibits a lack of in vitro and in vivo genotoxic potential Toxicol Rep. 2017.
- Methylcellulose – a compound derived from cellulose and used as a thickener and emulsifier13J Siepmann , N A Peppas, Modeling of drug release from delivery systems based on hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2001.
- Glycerin – a solubilizing excipient and one of the most widely used ingredients in pharmaceutical formulations, second only to water14Robert G Strickley, Solubilizing excipients in oral and injectable formulations Pharm Res. 2004.
This list should be another red flag that tips off this supplement’s poor quality.
These fillers and additives indicate a rushed, inefficient manufacturing process that uses suboptimal ingredients.
Uses Junk Science To Support Claims
Quoting from Natrol’s website, “Cognium is a breakthrough in brain health, powered by a unique ingredient backed by human clinical studies.”
However, these clinical studies are not crystal clear.
First, many of the cited studies have only been published in Korean.
Usually, if used to claim clinical benefits of any sort, these articles would be listed on PubMed. Still, in this case, they aren’t.
Universal accessibility of biomedical results is the first pillar of a trustworthy science. So, that’s not a good start.
They are also all published by the same research group, and they haven’t been reproduced elsewhere, which looks suspicious.
Secondly, in 2013 a Korean research group published a study claiming memory-enhancing effects of silk fibroin-derived peptides15Yong Koo Kang, Woojoo Lee, Byunghoon Kang, Hannah Kang, Memory-enhancing effects of silk fibroin-derived peptides in scopolamine-treated mice J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2013.
This study has been later retracted for the authors’ misconduct (data fabrication and falsification), an inadmissible behavior that questions later-published results16Yong Koo Kang, Woojoo Lee, Byunghoon Kang, Hannah Kang, Memory-enhancing effects of silk fibroin-derived peptides in scopolamine-treated mice J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2013.
Yes, because the same research group published another study in 2018, showing improved memory measurements in healthy adults using Cognium daily for three weeks17Yong Koo Kang, Boo Yong Lee, Luke R Bucci, Sidney J Stohs, Effect of a Fibroin Enzymatic Hydrolysate on Memory Improvement: A Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Study Nutrients. 2018.
Can we trust the results this time?
Also, the optimal dose for silk protein hydrolysate in the study was 400 or 600 mg. A Cognium tablet contains only 100 mg of CERA-Q powder, making the recommended dose of 2 tablets per day not sufficient to elicit an adequate response.
Despite the retraction and the controversies, Natrol is still using these studies on their website to back-up the effectiveness and safety of Cognium.
To add to this, Natrol might have funded some of these studies, leading to a conflict of interest and unreliable results.
Cognium Amazon Reviews
Cognium claims to energize your brain, keep your mind sharp, and improve your focus and cognitive function. Let’s see what real-life experiences of Cognium tell us!
Cognium has mixed reviews on Amazon. One customer writes how “it didn’t seem to have any effect on improving cognitive function or memory.” They also comment on how it did not lead to improved scores on memory tests despite a consistent use for four weeks.
Several customers report side effects such as headaches, upset stomach, and sleep disturbances after taking Cognium. One says that “He really tried to keep taking them for at least two weeks but finally gave up due to the side effects.”
Cognium Reddit Reviews
On Reddit, the story is no different.
Users report “no difference in my cognitive function at all” and refer to Cognium as a “totally over-hyped nootropic.”
To sum up, it appears that Cognium does not tick all the boxes to be regarded as a nootropic. Its ingredient can prevent brain cell damage, but there is not enough evidence to prove that it enhances brain function and memory.
Use These Nootropics Instead
If you’re looking for a tried and true nootropic that contains scientifically proven ingredients my top choices are either Mind Lab Pro or Qualia Mind.
I like these 2 nootropics for different reasons.
Check out my side by side comparison of Mind Lab Pro and Qualia Mind.
Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is a simple formula that includes potent cognitive enhancers like CDP-Choline, Lion’s Mane, L-Theanine, and Phosphatidylserine.
I think Mind Lab Pro is a great formula for anyone new to nootropics.
For more check out my Full Mind Lab Pro Review.
Qualia Mind is a more advanced formula that includes 27 different nootropics.
This is a great formula for more advanced nootropic users who are familiar with these ingredients.
While I’m not a subscriber of the “more is always better” approach, there are many people who have success with Qualia.
It comes with caffeine or without, so be sure to choose wisely.
For more check out my full Qualia Mind Review.