We all want to improve our memories and sharpen our decision making processes, but what about our kids? The developing mind of a child deserves some sort of support if we want our children to reach their maximum potential.
This is especially true for children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Although there are a number of theories as to why so many children end up with ADHD, the mainstream theory revolves around nutrition and the availability of neurological precursors. Cell membranes, dopamine and myelin all need the raw materials from the diet in order to be built correctly in the brain.
Many people taking nootropics themselves, or considering it, wonder if nootropics would also be healthy for their kids. And, if so, which ones should they be giving their kids in order to maximise their cognitive potential?
The Developing Brain Of A Child
In order to understand the answer to this question, we need to discuss the what makes a child’s brain different from that of an adult’s. In children below age 10, the brain contains a high concentration of grey matter which is where all the synaptic connections are made. The reason this happens is that a child’s brain needs to be more “pliable” or “bendable” so that it can be molded to fit whatever circumstance it’s given. This is a phase of life with a high level of neuroplasticity in the brain.
This means that a child’s brain is constantly forming new connections and making new neural pathways to navigate and learn how to exist here on earth. After about age 10, this grey matter begins to undergo a process commonly known as “pruning”.
This pruning works to cement the connections the brain needs most and eliminating the connections that aren’t being used as frequently. This happens to make way for a different type of brain material known as white matter. It’s referred to as white matter because it appears white on brain scans. It differs from grey matter in that it contains a thick, fatty coating on the neurons known as myelin.
The formation of this white matter is done through a process known as “myelination”. The benefits of this white matter are faster nerve transmission, and better protection for the neurons in the brain. In a nutshell, the major difference between a child’s brain and an adult’s is the difference in rations of grey matter and white matter.
Nootropics For Children
Now that we have a basic understanding of how a child’s brain differs from an adult’s brain we can explore the types of nootropics that are safe and effective for children.
With children, the main goal is to support their growth through nutritional nootropics. This allows the natural processes and neurochemical changes to happen organically.
Nutritional Nootropics For The Child Brain
When it comes to nutritional nootropics for children, the main focus tends to be on nutrients that supports the formation of brain synapses, myelination and neurotransmitter production.
L-Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid abundant in foods like dairy and meat. It’s used to form neurotransmitters like dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Supplemental doses of L-Tyrosine ensure enough of these important neurotransmitters are made in a child’s brain in order to support growth.
One of the leading theories for conditions like ADHD (though highly debated), is a reduction in the neurotransmitter dopamine. Supplemental L-Tyrosine supports the production of this neurotransmitter, and is a popular treatment for children suffering from ADHD without the use of prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall.
L-Tyrosine is not only safe and natural, but also highly available in child-specific dosage formats.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (DHA)
The brain is made up of nearly 60% fat. This means that Omega 3 is an especially necessary nutrient for the fast developing brain of a child. Of fats, Omega 3 is considered to be the most important for the development of new brain cells, myelination of the neurons, and the formation of grey matter early on in development.
Although Omega 3 is especially important for the developing mind of a child, recent studies have shown that not all Omega 3 fatty acids are the same. Researchers have found that DHA plays a crucial role in development, whereas EPA is used mainly for function.
L-Theanine is one of the most popular nootropics for adults as well as kids. It’s used to reduce hyperactivity in the brain, and promotes relaxation and clearer thinking. This is an especially useful nootropic for kids suffering from ADHD and ADD.
This amino acid precursor works by improving the flow of blood to the brain by dilating the cerebral arteries. It also works as a neuroprotective agent to combat anxiety and allows especially hyperactive children to cope with stress more effectively, and be able to relax during times of hyperactivity.
Phosphatidylserine is naturally produced in the brain, and used to form the lipid bilayer of the neuron. Supplementing this compound ensures the developing brain has enough of the right raw materials to build new brain cells and improves the fluidity of developing cells.
This is especially important when you consider how rapidly changing a child’s brain is. Many researchers are starting to unlock new connections between a lack of neuron precursors like phosphatidylserine with attention disorders like ADHD.
In fact, a study investigating the effects of a 200mg dose of phosphatidylserine vs placebo in 36 children aged 4-14, found significant improvements in ADHD symptoms in the group treated with phosphatidylserine. On top of this, there were no adverse reactions reported in the entire study group.
What Nootropics Kids Should Avoid
With the brian undergoing so many new connections, it is not recommended for children to take supplements that are overly stimulating on one pathway or another. All of the nootropics discussed in this article are broad and have more of a nutritional effect to support natural pathways in the brain than stimulating a particular pathway.
Nootropics like the Racetams (aniracetam, pramiracetam, piracetam), as well as caffeine, and any of the experimental nootropics should be avoided due to the fact that we simply don’t have a strong enough understanding about how these chemicals are going to interact with the neurochemical development taking place in the brain of a child.
Should Children Take Nootropics
As kids are developing, some nootropics are considered to be appropriate to support growth. Nutritional nootropics like L-Tyrosine and phosphatidylserine, as well as L-Theanine and omega 3 fatty acids like DHA are all beneficial for the developing brain.
This list is not all inclusive, and it’s important to learn about the nootropics and how they work before giving them to your child.