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Productivity Pills? Possibly.

January 11, 2011

It’s hard enough to concentrate at the office without our own bodies working against us. But that’s exactly what happens to most office workers in the early afternoon. Endocrinologists call it the postprandial dip and it stems from a drop in blood glucose as your body concentrates more on digesting lunch than on helping you concentrate.

Until the beginning of the last decade, your only (legal) option for a workday energy boost was a cup of coffee and a glazed donut. Then came the tidal wave of energy drinks. From Rockstar to 5-Hour Energy, there are now dozens of drinks. Despite claims of the benefits of amino acids and B vitamins, most nutritionists attribute any energy boost to their high levels of sugar and caffeine.

A less sugar-laden way to boost concentration may be available in herbal supplements. Leading the list are ginseng and gingko biloba. The first is credited by advocates with curing everything from impotence to diabetes. Despite the hype though, there is some evidence that it can improve abstract thinking and mental reaction times. Ginseng, taken in combination with gingko biloba, it might even be a memory booster, according to the National Institute of Health’s MedLine Plus database.

So far, most of the research into ginkgo biloba has been to gauge its effectiveness as a defense against Alzheimer’s and dementia. While less research has been done on how good it is at improving concentration in healthy adults, there may be something to it. One British study showed improved cognitive reaction times peaking about 2.5 hours after taking just one dose of the extract. Not exactly a quick fix but potentially healthier than a caffeine and sugar bomb. Or you may be better of with a clandestine afternoon nap.

Posted by Postbox