Memory Drinks For Students: Science or Scam?

The first time you heard about the concept of ‘memory drinks, you might have well wondered about their legitimacy. And rightly so!

I mean, is it right to claim a drink can really help to improve your cognitive ability intake and improve memory recall? 

And if so in the context of exams could they then be used to give students an edge?

With the industry of brain supplements expected to be worth over $10 billion annually by 2025, there is clearly a lot of ‘smart money’ backing the concept at the very least. But what about the science behind the claims? 

Neuroscience has long proven that consuming certain nutrients can help improve brain function such as energy production. This ‘brain food’ can in turn boost focus however cannot promise that the improved focus will translate into even the slightest improvement to memory skills. 

If you are a student, drinking a claimed ‘memory drink’ is not the same as training your brain to become better at recalling information!

If any product sells itself as a magic aid to obtaining a stronger memory, you should be skeptical straight off the bat. The scientific community knows of no such secret or special nootropic ingredient (despite some dubious claims) that can give your recall a boost.

Eating healthily and hydrating with water will likely give you just as much of a chance to absorb and retain lecture notes and course material as the most expensive memory drink on the market.

If you do insist on giving one of the better known memory drinks (such as Braingear) a trial during studying you might first want to clue up on a couple of points.

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Do drinks that improve your memory even exist?

The answer to whether a specially formulated drink can improve memory is cloudy at best. 

While science indicates that certain amino acids such as L-Serine do improve our ability to remember – and by extension, food and drink may be able to provide these – it is certainly not as simple as sitting down with a can of something that labels itself as ‘brain food’, glancing at the textbooks, and then acing your exams.

Memory is a complicated concept that is far from fully understood. We don’t yet know much about what makes our brain absorb certain pieces of information and it’s likely to stay that way for a long time. 

Any company who claims their drink will heighten your memory is probably using clever copywriting to make sure they are not making concrete claims that can later be challenged by regulators. .

Much of the information drawing the conclusion that memory boosting drinks are the real deal are based on small selective studies that are not yet conclusive enough to tell us for sure what we should and shouldn’t be drinking to improve our memory. 

It is likely that most “memory drinks” are little more than scams, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore drinks altogether as a means of getting healthy brain activity when you’re studying.

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Are any off-the-shelf drinks capable of boosting memory?

Often the drinks marketed as memory boosters claim to help by correcting a deficiency that may be slowing your brain down, or providing more of a particular nutrient that will help a certain biological process happen smoother.

They may also have a stimulating effect that boosts your alertness levels, and for most this might also help you to better switch on to absorb information.

However, coffee is a perfect example of why these drinks should not be viewed as a panacea to study failures. 

Different ingredients affect people in different ways. Some people can’t focus if they have coffee. Some people can’t focus if they don’t. 

You need to understand the drink, your body, and why it may work.

So, what drinks could you try if you want to boost your memory (apart from caffeine)?

It may surprise you to learn that hot cocoa is a strong contender. It is thought that the flavanols in cocoa might actually make you study more effectively.

Cocoa might boost your blood flow, increasing the amount of oxygen that is available to your brain when you are studying. Just as with any muscle, more oxygen is sure to be welcome when it’s being asked to work hard.

You may also find that other drinks have a similar effect, such as tea, which contains flavonoids as well. 

Red wine is thought to have an effect for the same reason, but you probably don’t want to be including this in your study routine…or maybe you do. 

Sugar is another potential memory aid when consumed in moderation.

It provides your brain with its preferred source of energy, so in limited quantities, sugar may help. Opt for a piece of whole fruit, which allows your body to absorb the sugar in a controlled way, ahead of processed sugar.

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How can you spot a scam ‘memory drink’?

Measuring brain activity and ability is extremely difficult, and any claims that memory drinks for students makes provide X, Y or Z benefits are unlikely to have been proven under accredited lab conditions.

Any marketing that emphasises claims that you’ll be in a better mental state following a course of their product should start to raise warning flags. 

The best way to determine whether a memory drink is a scam is to look at the ingredients. 

The field of nootropics is obsessed with discovering rare natural ingredients that can tap into your mind to enhance cognitive benefits. So if there’s an ingredient that sounds exotic and you’re unable to identify (even with the help of Google), start to get suspicious. 

If your curiosity does get the better of you be careful. Not that there will be anything illicit in the mix but rather introducing a new substance to your body can result in some unwelcome side effects. Take Alpha Brain’s reported lucid dreams for example.

Why might you actually benefit from drinking ‘memory drinks’?

If you find that memory drinks seem to help you, that’s great. However, there are a few things to consider that could explain why it appears these drinks are working for you. 

Firstly, drinking will often involve taking a break from studying. A five minute break is enough to reset your brain and improve your ability to process information. If you are taking a break to consume a memory drink, this alone – rather than the drink – might be enough to boost your concentration.

Secondly, there is also the placebo effect to consider; you may be benefiting because you think that you are, rather than because you actually are. Drinking a memory drink may be enough to boost your confidence and make you feel like you can remember the information.

This could reduce your stress levels and make your brain more capable of taking on board new information.

Thirdly, the drinks do contain things such as caffeine, sugar, and flavanols. These may help your brain to take in information, but the same effect could be gained by drinking a cup of coffee, fruit juice or cocoa respectively. 

Finally, it’s important to remember that good hydration in general is key to brain function. The memory drink may be doing no more than replenishing your liquid levels, which could be enough to make your brain more efficient.

Overall, therefore, you aren’t really gaining anything by drinking commercial memory drinks – or at least, nothing you couldn’t gain by taking a break, talking up your confidence, and selecting a drink from your store cupboard.

Conclusion: Are memory drinks a scam?

Some memory drinks may be capable of boosting your ability to remember information, but this is usually because of an ingredient that you could get from other off-the-shelf drinks, or because they encourage you to take a break and rehydrate your body.

You may get some benefits from memory drinks, but before you spend your money on them, consider other study techniques that could offer the same benefits at a lower cost.

Memory drinks may not be considered a scam in that some ingredients they contain could potentially boost your brain activity, however they are undoubtedly not the most efficient or cost effective way to improve your cognitive abilities.

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