DMAE is said to be a supplement with brain-boosting power and skin-enhancing benefits. But is that really the case? And is the science as clear cut as manufacturers want you to believe?
As a hard working woman with little time to spare, efficiency is key. You’ve nailed a healthy diet and your workout schedule is on point.
But you still think that your concentration, focus and attention could be better.
All that’s left to do is add in the right supplement and off you go.
You heard of DMAE and now you’re wondering if it could be the answer. After all, with millions of supplements to choose from, there’s nothing wrong with doing your research. That’s a great move.
- What is DMAE and how does it work?
- Health benefits and side effects
- Is DMAE safe?
- Safe and effective alternatives
What is DMAE?
DMAE is said to offer brain power benefits such as cognitive enhancement.
Girl, you know the value of eating seafood. It’s full of protein and healthy fats that help your brain work at its best and your skin look fresh and youthful.
Dimethylaminoethanol or ‘DMAE’ for short is a choline molecule with a missing methyl group. This subtle change to chemical structure is what gives it its proposed benefits to brain function.
Found naturally in brain cells, as well as oily fish such as anchovies and sardines, DMAE is thought to improve cognitive skills – from memory and focus, to attention and motivation.
It’s been used in older adults to treat cognition, as well as in ADHD patients with disruptive behaviour issues.
DMAE is used in skincare products
You’ll also find DMAE added to beauty products such as lotions and creams.
Dimethylaminoethanol is said to improve skin elasticity and ‘glow’. Many women searching for skin plumpers and a great complexion often shoot for products with the compound in its ingredients profile.
However, there’s currently limited evidence of any actual benefits. Studies have shown the even with regular use, DMAE doesn’t improve collagen turnover or even skin tone. So, don’t rush out and buy it just yet girls.
Health Benefits: What is DMAE for?
Come on girls, we work hard for our supplement spending money… and if we’re going to part with it, we need to know that we’ll see at least some benefits, right?
In short, Dimethylaminoethanol as a supplement is said to help with:
- Cognition – learning, memory and mood
- Improve athletic performance
- Fights depression
Within your body right now are hundreds of different hormones and chemicals flowing around. They each have their own job, but also work together to help your body function at optimal temperature, pressure, activity levels and arousal.
For example, estrogen and progesterone are involved in menstruation. Insulin lowers your blood sugar and leptin controls appetite.
DMAE may increase acetylcholine production
One of the chemicals involved in regulating ‘homeostasis’ is called acetylcholine. It’s a neurotransmitter responsible for smooth communication between nerve cells. ACh helps to promote calm, focus and control autonomic functions such as heart rate and breathing.
Acetylcholine plays a key role in regulating learning and memory, as well as energy levels and mood.
When levels of ACh are optimized, cognitive skills are heightened.
DMAE is said to boost ACh levels by stimulating choline receptors to release more from its cells, therefore being important for brain function.
Higher blood choline levels are associated with better brain health.
DMAE could reduce beta-amyloid build-up
As well as ACh production, it’s claimed that DMAE may regulate the production of beta-amyloid – a protein produced in the brain that increases the development of cognitive decline in later life.
Beta-amyloid is often referred to as an ‘age pigment’. It’s the main chemical involved in brain health decline in the elderly.
Studies show that as beta-amyloid levels go up, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases. In fact, beta-amyloid can be used as an indicator for diagnosis too.
It’s been suggested that DMAE may help to keep beta-amyloid levels low, meaning better brain function as you age. Some researchers have claimed that the supplement could help prevent Alzheimer’s, although that’s a huge claim based on limited research.
At present, the link between DMAE is interesting, but hugely understudied.[infobox]
Key Point: DMAE is said to be beneficial for cognition as well as skin health and sports performance.[/infobox]
Does DMAE Work?
The research shows that DMAE has limited benefits as a cognition enhancer.
Your brain has its own protective shield that stops toxins and other bad stuff from entering its blood flow.
This is called the blood-brain barrier.
The main function of the BBB is to separate the general blood network of your body from what’s going off in your central nervous system. Without it, you’d get all kinds of by-products entering the brain’s blood flow and potentially causing damage.
The BBB is your cerebral ‘knight in shining armor’.
For a supplement to be effective, it must be able to enter the brain. For many commercial, over-the-counter products though, that’s not the case.
DMAE can’t cross the blood-brain barrier
Dimethylaminoethanol is said to cross this barrier, meaning it can exert its effects directly on your central nervous system. However, science may disagree.
In one study, DMAE was seen to be inhibited once it reached the gap between neurons in the brain (called synapses). It was able to increase choline levels… but had zero effect on acetylcholine.
So what’s the message here girls?
Well, don’t believe everything that supplement companies tell you. Yes, DMAE can cross the blood-brain barrier, but because its unable to cross synapses, it’s actual use may be limited.
Don’t believe the hype.
Most studies show no change with DMAE supplementation
The physiology of neural chemistry shows us just how important natural production of DMAE is within the brain. But a supplement doesn’t seem to have the same effect.
In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 1,500 mg of the compound taken over 6-months showed no significant effects. Even in those with pre-existing cognitive decline.
DMAE could have value to those with a choline deficiency… but even then, the science is limited.
While it appears Dimethylaminoethanol can’t increase acetylcholine levels directly, it may have some clinical significance in those with choline deficiency.
Many scientific studies use participants with low choline levels. And when given DMAE supplementation, some do show an improvement in symptoms of depression. This could be because the supplement triggers choline receptors indirectly in that group of people.
Or maybe it’s due to higher circulating choline levels that somehow trigger the release of ACh.
Either way, the bottom line is that if you have a healthy cholinergic system, DMAE probably isn’t a good nootropic supplement choice for you.[infobox]
Key Point: It’s unlikely that DMAE will have any real benefit in healthy women looking to boost cognition and overall health.[/infobox]
It’s clear that DMAE is an interesting but understudied nootropic nutrient. It’s shown some promise in clinical trials (most of these are in rats though and not women) and may be a promising intervention for Alzheimer’s.
However, you also need to know that commercially available forms of DMAE can cause side effects and adverse reactions – particularly pregnant mothers.
Pregnant moms need to stay clear
One huge risk is that DMAE increases neural tube defects in unborn children. DMAE is classed as a teratogenic – this means it disturbs normal, healthy development of your baby. It may also increase the risk of maternal infections and a range of congenital malformations.
Negative effects in adults with epilepsy
Due to its stimulatory effect, those with epilepsy, bipolar and any form of anxiety should avoid DMAE supplementation.
If taken, the changes in brain chemistry could lead to seizures – particularly heavy tonic-clonic episodes.
DMAE can cause a range of side effects
General side effects of DMAE supplementation are varied but common. These include but aren’t limited to:
- High blood pressure
- Body odor
- Irritability, confusion and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal issues and general stomach upset
- Muscle tension
Is it safe? Should I use it?
By now you’re hopefully reconsidering DMAE as a nootropic supplement. With so many side effects and limited evidence that it works, there are better options out there for sure.
In terms of safety, higher doses of 1,600 mg seem to be well tolerated and aren’t toxic. However, those kinds of doses are pretty much sure to cause at least some side effects.
There is currently no research looking at DMAE supplementation and how it could interact with other supplements or drugs. This is concerning and another reason why the risk probably isn’t worth it.
It goes without saying you should check with your health professional before starting to use a compound like this – especially if you’re already on other medications.
What Are the Alternatives?
Luckily, there are a range of cognition-boosting nutrients out there that are more effective and safer than Dimethylaminoethanol.
Here’s a rundown of the SMG favorite cognition boosters:
Much like DMAE, 5′-Cytidine diphosphate choline or citicoline for short is a naturally-occurring brain chemical. Only this compound has been shown to exert positive effects on cognition in a wide range of clinical trials.
Taking citicoline as a supplement will:
- Enhance memory
- More positive mood
- Improve mental clarity
- Protect neurons from harm
- …and even increase muscle strength
Clinical data suggests that citicoline is one of few cholinergic supplements that offer neuroprotective benefits both short- and long-term.
As a popular Ayurvedic adaptogen herb, ashwagandha has been used to treat symptoms of stress for thousands of years. It’s well known for treating anxiety, general stress disorder and cognitive decline.
Ashwagandha inhibits the build-up of acetylcholinesterase – a compound that breaks down acetylcholine.
And if you’re a girl who likes to lift big in the gym, bear this in mind too – ashwagandha also boosts power, strength and muscle tone.
NALT is a highly bioactive form of the amino acid L-tyrosine. It’s known to fight fatigue (it’s used by elite athletes), improve concentration and mood and generally help you feel alert and focused.
As a busy woman you’re constantly bombarded with task after task. Sometimes you find it impossible to shut down stress and put yourself first.
If you suffer from scatterbrain from too many jobs and too much on your mind, NALT is a great supplement to fit into your nutrient stack. Not only does it fight exhaustion and fatigue, it also boosts higher-order brain function – from memory recall to concentration.
There just isn’t enough evidence to support DMAE as an effective nootropic supplement. The small number of rat studies showing clinical benefits just aren’t enough to put your trust in it.
If you’re currently researching a supplement to boost your brain power, we wouldn’t recommend DMAE. There’s just not enough evidence behind it… and the side effects look pretty scary too.