Chewing Over Whether Smart Gum and Nootropics Are a Good Idea

Person doing bubble with chewing gum on bright background

Elisabeth is a 13-time Emmy-winner, a critically acclaimed personal finance author and a 20-year consumer advocate for programs such as Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show.
Connect with her via Twitter @ElisabethLeamy and on her website, Leamy.com.

I figured the only thing worse than discussing my own poop on the air was discussing my intelligence – or lack thereof – on national TV. But having agreed to The Dr. Oz Show producers when they asked me to take a series of at-home poop tests, how could I turn down the chance to take a couple of at-work intelligence tests?

The plan was for me to take a baseline test of brain function, then chomp on a hunk of newly invented “smart gum” for a few minutes and take the test again. Would it make my fortysomething-year-old brain more lithe and nimble? Would I have the reaction time of a major league batter, the concentration of a world champion chess player, and the memory of a casino card counter?

Yes, yes, and no. To my surprise, the gum did improve my reaction time and concentration. Sadly, it didn’t help my memory. It’s called NeuroGum, and it’s now for sale online. It’s the latest in the nootropic trend. Nootropic supplements are formulated to enhance your cognitive abilities, and while research on them may be thin, there’s tons of research showing that some of the most common separate ingredients in them do, indeed, have an effect on the brain. NeuroGum’s inventors told me their product contains mostly caffeine (about half a cup of coffee’s worth), L-theanine, and B vitamins.

It was hard for me to feel the gum’s effects during our shoot. For one thing, how was I supposed to concentrate while a cameraman circled around and a producer barked orders? But when I smuggled some NeuroGum home and tried it, I felt like it helped me, especially on a day that I had a lot to accomplish and hadn’t slept enough the night before. Impressed with myself (and the gum), I reached for another piece the next day. “What is that?!” my husband asked.

That interrupted my newfound love affair. My husband almost never takes even an aspirin for a headache. Sheepishly explaining the gum to him made me want to rely on natural ways of boosting my brain whenever possible. So I looked some up:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Sleep more
  • Eat better
  • Be mindful
  • Listen to music
  • Work your brain

That all sounds great. Those are things I like to do for so many other reasons anyway.

Now, if only I could think of a way to end this article. If only I could pop a piece of smart gum!