Product Name: Cognium
Product Description: Natrol Cognium is sold as a potent nootropic capable of enhancing memory function and protecting against cognitive decline. In reality, it can do neither of these things! It is a scam.
Offer price: 32.99
Focus, Learning & Memory
Neuroplasticity & Brain Health
Value For Money
I am not recommending Cognium it anybody, regardless of your goals. I don’t see why anybody would use this nootropic. Despite the many claims made by the maker, Natrol Cognium is completely lacking in clinical evidence. It contains one ingredient, and it does absolutely nothing for cognitive function or brain health.
See our current top rated nootropic: https://www.ijest.org/nootropics/mind-lab-pro-review/
One ingredient and it lacks any valid scientific proof
Very over-priced for a single-ingredient nootropic
What Is Cognium?
Cognium is a natural nootropic made by Natrol, a supplement company which describes itself as a US leader in vitamins, minerals and health supplements. Over the last few years Natrol have increasingly tried to get into the nootropics market. This makes sense; brain health supplements have become extremely popular, and the market for brain supplements which focus on memory function and older people is only going to grow. So Natrol have released a range of nootropics. In this review, we’re going to focus on the original Cognium.
According to the Natrol website, Cognium delivers some spectacular cognitive benefits, including:
- Improved memory retention
- Improved memory recall speed
- Supports brain health by protecting cells from oxidative damage
- Works in as little as 4 weeks
That is a very exciting range of benefits. Almost no memory supplement works in four weeks. Certain nootropics can enhance focus and mental energy in a short space of time, but improvements in memory usually come from deep changes in the brain which take months to manifest.
Does Cognium really help memory? Is Cognium safe? What are the side effects of Cognium? In this detailed Cognium review, I’ll examine the Cognium formula in more detail; I’ll cover side effects, efficacy, clinical evidence, and value for money.
The most important thing to look at when reviewing a brain supplement like Natrol Cognium – or any nootropic for that matter – is the ingredients.
Here is the full Natrol Cognium ingredients list:
- Silk protein hydrolysate (60%) – 100mg
Here is what the formula looks like on the Cognium label:
That’s right; Cognium is just one ingredients: silk protein hydrolysate. You’re forgiven if you’re never heard of silk protein hydrolysate before; it isn’t widely-used in memory supplements. Normally, memory-specific nootropics contain a stack of herbal extracts, lipids and vitamins known to promote memory function. But Natrol Cognium is just one ingredient.
What is silk protein hydrolysate? Is it backed by clinical studies? Is it really the “#1 most clinically studied ingredient for memory among leading brain health supplements” as Natrol claim?
Silk protein hydrolysate (60%) – 100mg
The silk protein hydrolysate used in Natrol Cognium is derived from the thread of silkworm cocoons. It isn’t clear what the 60% refers to on the label.
The Natrol website claims that this silk protein hydrolysate is the most clinically studied nootropic for memory on the market. Yet they do not provide any links to these studies, nor do they mention the results. We’re just told that “in vitro study suggests that Cognium additionally acts like an antioxidant for the brain, shielding it from free radicals and oxidative stress that help age the brain. Cognium is safe and stimulant free”.
We are also told that Cognium boosts brain glucose uptake: “A brain imaging study indicates that it energizes the brain by increasing blood flow and glucose uptake in the brain’s centers for learning and memory (results were based on 200 mg taken twice daily).”
I have not been able to find a single independent clinical study showing this to be the case. As far as I can tell, no human clinical studies have been done to even examine silk protein’s antioxidant activity because it isn’t thought to have any!
There is simply no peer-reviewed research to back up Natrol’s claims.
So does Cognium’s only ingredient have any scientific backing as a nootropic at all? Does it improve cognition in any way?
Clinical evidence severely limited
There are some clinical trials showing silk protein having a positive effect on cognition. However, these trials have serious limitations, and they do not support the claims made by Natrol Cognium at all!
A 2018 study published in Nutrients supposedly found that supplementing with silk fibroin protein enzymatic hydrolysate was able to significantly improve multiple measures of memory in healthy adults in just three weeks (never mind four weeks). The researchers used a branded form of hydrolysed silk protein made in Korea called CERA-Q (more on this later). They gave healthy participants with an average age of 55 years either 0, 280, 400 or 600mg of CERA-Q daily.
The researchers concluded that CERA-Q “significantly improved measurements of memory in healthy adults by 3 weeks at doses over 280 mg daily, with an apparent plateau effect at 400–600 mg daily.”
Based on a previous brain imaging study, the researchers hypothesized that the hydrolysed silk protein (CERA-Q) improved memory by preventing the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid plaques are currently thought to be a primary cause of Alzheimer’s Disease. Being able to prevent their accumulation would be a major breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research.
So why aren’t I more excited?
First of all, there’s the fact that the benefits of CERA-Q were found to be tightly dose-dpeendent: “In summary, the results of this study indicate that the FPEH is effective in improving memory for verbal and visual tests in a dose-dependent manner. An intake of 400–600 mg was shown to improve memory.”
Cognium contains 100mg of silk protein hydrolysate. Cognium Extract Strength only provides 200mg of the stuff. The minimum effective dose according to the above study is 400mg. So even if this nootropic does improve memory and prevent memory problems, there isn’t enough in Cognium to have the desired effect.
But a bigger problem is the fact that this study was funded by CERA-Q’s manufacturer!
If you check the acknowledgements section of the paper, you’ll see that it says the study was funded by BrainOn Inc. Ltd. This is the company that makes CERA-Q! Classic!
Clinical trial falsification
To make matters worse, the same authors from the above cited study have had papers retracted before due to data falsification!
This is a very bad sign. The author clearly has an incentive to sell this memory supplement to the point where he/she is willing to falsify evidence! I don’t trust a single word this man has published, and I don’t think you should either.
I have looked at other studies which have examined other forms of silk protein, including hydrolysed silk protein taken from silk worm cocoons. In every single case, the study has used large quantities of silk protein hydrolysate, the studies have been funded by a manufacturer in some way, or the author behind the paper has a history of data falsification (involving silk protein no less). The studies listed on the Natrol website all deal with Brain Factor-7, another branded form of silk protein!
Is Cognium CERA-Q?
Natrol Cognium previously listed their main ingredient as CERA-Q, which is a silk protein hydrolysate. The most recent labels, however, just show “silk protein hydrolysate” rather than the branded version. It’s possible that Natrol have dropped CERA-Q for cheaper generic version.
In any case, it doesn’t really matter whether this is CERA-Q, Brain Factor-7, or a generic form of this so-called nootropic.
It is still silk protein hydrolysate, and it still does absolutely nothing for cognition.
Natrol Cognium Side Effects
Most natural nootropics are very safe. That is kind of the point of nootropics; they are healthier, safer alternatives to pharmaceutical grade cognitive enhancers and prescription drugs like Modafinil and Adderall.
But is Cognium safe?
It is hard to say whether or not Natrol Cognium is a safe nootropic. For starters, the longest-running clinical trial done on silk protein lasted 4 weeks. That isn’t long enough to determine side effect risks properly.
Then there’s the cost-benefit analysis issue. Every discussion about side effects needs to involve a discussion about benefits; are the benefits worth the risks? With Cognium, there doesn’t seem to be any benefits on the table, so even mild risks make the brain supplement not worth it.
None of the studies looking at Cognium’s only ingredient turned up any side effects worth mentioning. Users weren’t recorded as having headaches, nausea, diarrhea, depression, or any other common side effect complaints for that matter. Even at the higher dosage of 600mg, participants didn’t seem to experience severe side effects.
On the other hand, the chances of you experiencing significant cognitive enhancement from Cognium are slim to nil. It doesn’t improve mental performance, it doesn’t promote learning, and it doesn’t promote better cognitive function as you age (at least not at Natrol dosages).
So Cognium is probably safe in the short-term. But given the fact that it may interfere with amyloid plaques in some way, and given the complete lack of long-term studies, we don’t think the small chance of benefits is worth the massive potential cost.
Side effects disclaimer
We are not doctors and this is not medical advice. You must talk to a qualified healthcare professional before using any product which claims to improve cognition in some way, even if it does claim to be perfectly safe and “natural”. Cognium may interact with your current medications in some way. Talk to your physician before using this or any other nootropic supplement! Do not try to treat dementia or severe cognitive decline with supplements. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the food and drug administration in the United States.
Cognium Reviews & User Feedback
When judging any nootropic, it’s worth looking at what other people are saying about it. Customer reviews can only give you so much information of course; people can be mistaken, they can lie, and they can fall victim to the placebo effect.
But it’s still worth looking at what Cognium customers are saying to get a feel for what the product does.
Here is a selection of Natrol Cognium reviews taken from various places online:
Cognium vs Prevagen
Lots of people have compared Cognium with Prevagen; another supplement claiming to be effective for treating various cognitive diseases, improving memory function, and boosting cognitive performance in healthy people too.
Like Cognium, Prevagen presents itself as a medical grade treatment for cognitive decline.
And just like with Cognium, these claims are completely untrue.
Prevagen uses another unusual ingredient, apoaequorin; a protein taken from jellyfish. Specifically, it uses the protein known to cause luminescence in certain jellyfish species.
As with Cognium, the evidence backing up this ingredient is questionable, to put it kindly. There is only one clinical trial looking at apoaequorin, and that was funded by the manufacturer. There’s no meta-analysis, no independent clinical trials; nothing.
If you’re wondering which the best nootropic is out of Cognium and Prevagen, I have to say NEITHER!
Review Conclusion: Does Cognium really help memory?
If you’re looking for a nootropic supplement to help with forgetfulness, brain fog, or poor focus, then you’re looking in the wrong place with Cognium.
I strongly recommend reading my full Natrol Cognium review to really understand why I think this is such a bad nootropic supplement (if I can call it that).
My main issue – my only issue really – is that the one ingredient in Natrol Cognium lacks hard scientific evidence. When there is a complete lack of clinical data, I am forced to conclude that a substance is bogus; that it does nothing.
There are clinical trials showing that 400mg of silk protein hydrolysate (CERA-Q) improves memory function. However, these studies have typically been funded by the manufacturer, and the author of most of them are authored by a man who previously falsified results of a study on silk protein hydrolysate.
I have serious doubts as to the veracity of the science here, but even if CERA-Q did work, there isn’t enough in Cognium to get the job done: studies found anything less than 400mg to be completely ineffective.
Is Cognium the best nootropic on sale right now? NOT EVEN CLOSE!
If your goal is to promote brain health and retain memories better, then a nootropic stack containing Bacopa monnieri and phosphatidylserine would be far more effective than this product.
Even cheap vitamin supplements (the ubiquitous “memory vitamins” you see in supplement stores) will probably have more of an effect on your recall speed and retention rate than Cognium. Better brain supplements are out there for sure.
 Kang YK, Lee BY, Bucci LR, Stohs SJ. Effect of a Fibroin Enzymatic Hydrolysate on Memory Improvement: A Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Study. Nutrients. 2018;10(2):233. Published 2018 Feb 17. doi:10.3390/nu10020233
Paul Tardner is the Head Writer at IJEST.org. Paul is a former academic and research scientist. He now dedicates his time to his own research into nootropics, with a particular focus on cognitive enhancement in old age. You can learn more about Paul from his profile page.