The term 'smart nutrients' usually denotes particular vitamins or amino acids which fulfill certain
neurochemically critical functions, such as the formation of neurotransmitters. Supplements, therefore, enhance
cognitive abilities by making the environment more conducive to a higher rate of metabolic activity / regrowth / maintenance.
The glaring irony here is the fact that vitamin A, which is classified as an antioxidant
(its main function being the renewal of the human metabolism) is also known to be toxic when taken
directly. An analogy to Frank Herbert's Dune may well be appropriate, since the mysterious Water of Life
on the planet Arrakis (where most of the plot of the first book of the series takes place) possesses quite similar
properties. The Water of Life extends consciousness. However, since it places an immense strain on the nervous system
as the brain tries to cope with an unprecedented amount and variety of multidimensional sensory input, all who have tasted it have died. All, that is,
except the first book's protagonist Paul Atreides. In conclusion, both the Water of Life and vitamin A are screamingly
analogous to Derrida's pharmakon.
Download a film clip of Paul Atreides witnessing the extraction of the Water of Life from a sandworm,
taken from David Lynch's movie version of Frank Herbert's Dune.
There are also several other amino acids, such as Glutamine, Arginine,
Tryptophan and Taurine, but the safety and utility of these variants
have not been securely established. Only future research will show their
viability as safe nootropics, and until then, most people will prefer more
widely researched and tested supplements.
Even so, allegedly beneficial vitamins and amino acids which later turn out to be toxic (consider vitamin A
and vitamin B6, to name two extreme examples) may not necessarily constitute ideal venues for cognitive enhancement.
Would smart drugs, with their carefully engineered chemical structures, be safer in that the disadvantages brought about
by the existence of a certain molecule could be countered by the addition of an antagonistic (or in the very least,
Or should one prefer natural herbs, since they have achieved homeostasis by definition? No extreme effects
would be brought about by the consumption of a substance which, previously, constituted an organism sporting
a functional and balanced metabolism in and of itself. Correct?
Too many questions, too little time.