Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Supplements: Should I take truBrain drinks?


I guess promoted tweets do come in handy every now and again. Blog fodder. This tweet appeared in my feed last week:


Naturally, my response was: that sounds like complete and utter bullshit.

I went to their website to look for the science to back-up their claims; i.e. an increase in productivity. Naturally, the truBrain research team conducted the study. Surely no bias there. The study itself? Seven. Yep, seven, participants were examined for changes in EEG results following one week of truBrain consumption. The EEG was used to measure brain activity. There was no control group and no blinding (read: high likelihood of bias). Even with the deck so well stacked in their favour, the “researchers” found no significant results at a group level. This pilot study is the only research cited on their website.

Okay, so there’s no real science to support the claim that truBrain can increase productivity. Perhaps a look at the ingredients can provide more illumination:

375 mg of CDP-Choline – The lovely folks at examine.com indicate that there is some minor evidence to support the use of CDP-Choline to support memory and attention, and decreased cognitive decline in older adults. If there is a benefit conferred by CDP-Choline, this might be an effective dose.

200 mg of DHA – This is an omega-3 fatty acid. There may be benefits seen at this dose, although there is no scientific consensus. Also, benefits are most likely seen in individuals who do not regularly consume fatty fish.

375 mg of L-carnitine – This is quite a low dose. While there is some limited research to support the use of L-carnitine to increase cognition in the elderly, there is no research to support its use in the young.

300 mg of L-theanine – This is an amino acid that may promote relaxation. There is no research supporting its use to improve cognition.

375 mg of L-tyrosine – Another amino acid. As a supplement, it may reduce stress and memory in the presence of an acute stressor.

120 mg of magnesium- Many of us don’t consume enough magnesium in our diets so it’s hard for me to knock the inclusion of this mineral in their beverage. However, this is a rather low dose. Some forms of magnesium can cause gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. It’s also important to note that magnesium supplementation is unlikely to have any effect on cognitive performance.

800 mg of oxiracetam – This is a mild stimulant that may improve memory but there aren’t currently human studies to support this.

In addition to the “medicinal” ingredients, truBrain drinks also contain the following “natural” sweeteners: pomegranate, stevia, blue agave, cranberry, sugar cane, and monk fruit. Six sweeteners. Sweet enough for ya? Not mentioned in any of the ingredient lists is caffeine. The website shows an option for purchasing “non-caffeine drinks” but at the moment they have not yet developed any.

At the low end of the scale you can purchase 15 drinks for a one time fee of $60 or $50 per month. That’s $4 per packet. Unfortunately, the website doesn’t clearly state the size of each drink packet nor the full ingredient list or nutrition information. Without complete information, I can’t completely rip these truBrain supplements to shreds.

Apparently these supplements were developed by neuroscientists. While this might seem to lend an air of believability to their claims, it truly only shows that no profession is exempt from quackery and the desire to turn a profit.


Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

6 thoughts on “Supplements: Should I take truBrain drinks?

  1. Hi Diana, this is Celso Ferrari from truBrain. Dr. Hill would like to have a phone call with you so you two can discuss our 7 and 25 person study conducted with Wall Street Traders that was covered by Bloomberg and discuss the merits of active nootropics. N=7 and N=25 are NOT enough people, we know (Our Neuros are well published in journals, we understand like you do). We also have a study coming up that is fully funded by the Dartmouth Entrepreneurship Network. That said, we don’t have $200MM to run studies like a pharmaceutical, so just like with something like cold-pressed juice, you have to do your research and cannot expect clinical level studies, unless big pharma gets in the game, and there are trade-offs with that wish.

    Are you familiar with active nootropics? Reddit has a sub on this topic if you want to consult the group on the ingredients.

    Sam Altman (the Godfather of Silicon Valley) put nootropics at #6 on the list of world changing ideas. What is your take/response to Sam then? You are going to disagree with his thesis based on what? Airbnb came out of their program, as they put “the sharing economy” on the same type of list of ideas well before bloggers knew what that was and wrote how that would never work. Open to a call?

    Celso Ferrari


    • Thanks for responding Celso.

      I appreciate the difficulty in obtaining funding for research. However, I would think that it would be unethical for a neuroscientist to market and profit from sales of a supplement, especially one that’s unproven. At the very least, research should be conducted before marketing to the public with the claims made. If the product is as wonderful as you claim it to be on the website then surely you would easily have been able to procure sufficient funds for sounds trials via crowdsourcing such as kickstarter.

      I fail to see how a reddit discussion will support your case. And am even more puzzled as to how airbnb is relevant to the discussion. This is an issue of ethics and misleading marketing claims. Not an issue of bloggers being slow of the uptake.


  2. Sam Altman is the President of Y Combinator.


    • You’re a fried working for a fraudulent company. How do I know? Because I’ve worked here and the marketing motto is the old adage, “There’s a sucker born every day.” Why? Because the crap costs only a few cents to produce and package. Then they mark it up 900%!!!

      Those within the company refuse to take the supplements because they’ve tried it for weeks and sometimes months at a time and never notice anything worth the effort to open the packet, much less spend the money to purchase them.

      The creators are quacks inside their community. No one ever took them seriously, they’re now laughing as they cruise into the bank while they deposit the money of those they’ve scammed.

      Our marketing is weak at best, which is why they hire people like my ex-friend Celso to attempt to quiet you. Then they go to the search engines and flood the Internet with fake positive reviews. You’ll notice on the main website that it was advertised and reviewed by all these media venues, they weren’t. The webpage engineers simply just copy and paste that crap from other sites they’ve created and pasted on theirs.

      If it smells like crap, and it looks like crap, it is crap.


  3. I found this article looking for validity or pseudoscience on TruBrain specifically. A few things caught my attention, and I’d like to point those out without presenting too much of a case for the TruBrain people specifically.

    L-Theanine is psychoactive as low as 20mg, and fairly significant on its own at 200mg–as significant as L-Theanine can be. In a 2:1 L-Theanine:Caffeine dose, there are many high-quality studies showing a performance boost from caffeine, and a much more effective performance boost from the combination of L-Theanine and Caffeine; L-Theanine itself gives some minor stress-relieving benefit, and doesn’t have a strong impact on cognition on its own. The Journal of Nutrition has a study on individual and combined effects published from 2008.

    CDP-Choline is a highly-bioavailable form of choline. The recommended dietary intake is about 500mg; high doses can cause depression, although I wouldn’t worry (I’ve taken as much as 3,000mg; there were reasons).

    Oxiracetam has a 5-day loading period at 1600-2400mg, and does improve cognitive test scores … marginally. Most research targets patients with dementia, and the impact on healthy individuals has only had cursory examination. It’s favorable, but not well-studied, thus not reliable research. If you’re looking to be on the leading-edge, it’s a good gamble to include Oxiracetam and Choline in combination, as the sum total of research makes it reasonable to project a high practical likelihood of positive effect on healthy individuals, and toxicity is well-established as exceedingly low; if you’re looking to make concrete scientific conclusions, the answer is “insufficient evidence.”

    DHA makes a lot of sense if you’ve got anything fat-soluble in there (caffeine!). Improves bioavailability.

    The rest I’m not firm on. Minimal effects if anything. A stimulant like Phenylpiracetam, in small enough doses for repeated use (say, 20mg), would have a larger effect; 50mg or 100mg of Phenylpiracetam will quickly make you tolerant–same issue as high doses of Methylphenidate, which is why the original ADHD treatment strategy was cycling (no stimulants on weekends), and the current is low-dose stimulant therapy. Like Methylphenidate and amphetamine, appropriate doses of Phenylpiracetam have strong cognitive benefits; caffeine does, too… at first.

    Overall, TruBrain looks like a magic potion. The pieces have benefits; I wouldn’t call it a rigorously-tuned mixture as much as I’d call it a stack–a set of hastily-selected drugs based on their independent known effects. Combinations of drugs for treatment of things like ADHD go through drug-specific testing, checking the dosages and the impact of the whole mixture as a treatment plan rather than just assembling a pill from things which were well-studied and claiming the new concoction is also well-studied. Drugs can amplify each others’s actions, coexist flatly, or interfere with each other; mixing a few up doesn’t get you a well-understood treatment.


  4. Thank you for writing this article and thank you to Celso for responding. I was on the fence about trying trubrain. I read celso’s nonsensical comment and thought there is no way this guy works at trubrain because doing that would be incredibly stupid and undermine the credibility of his organization. I googled him and found that he is a product manager for trubrain. Holy crap dude you should not be writing comments like this about your product. Focus on making an efficacious product that is well studied rather than hunting for negative reviews and leaving nonsensical, antagonistic arguments in the comments section. Sounds like a bunch of marketing Junk with a dash of poor ethics. No thanks, I’m calling jeitinho!

    Liked by 1 person

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