Whenever a new craze or fad hits the healthfoods, ‘super foods’ or supplements market, I always find there is a dictionary-full of new buzzwords that goes with it. The marketing behind such products seems to require the formation of a brand new vocabulary for would-be customers, which will all help in the illusion that it is set it apart from what has gone before.
I speak, specifically in this case of the word ‘Stacks’. I bet you didn’t know that in terms of nootropic supplements this phrase has taken on a new meaning. It now means the ‘layering’ of two or more supplements so that the effect of both (or all) is greater than that of taking just one.
This phrasing is important as it implies both that more than one ingredient is better and also that just one is not quite enough in order to have the desired effects on mental performance (what nootropics claim to improve).
To illustrate this, and more because this is one of the first supplements I have come across which fully embraces the word ‘Stacks’ in its branding, I’m looking at CILTEP, a nootropic supplement from the company Natural Stacks.
Background on Natural Stacks
Natural Stacks are a company which produces supplements focused on customers achieving the mental edge. Products, like CILTEP claim to assist in
obtaining laser-like focus for hours and creating long lasting memories.
They have a list of fans, including athletes, scientists and World Poker winners.
Although they are by no means alone in promising that their products will boost brain performance, Natural Stacks stand out as being very true to their values in terms of sourcing and ensuring the quality of their ingredients.
The founder, Roy Krebs, based his company ethos on full transparency. So I like the brand already! There’s not a huge story on their website about how they formed the company and their personal ‘Team’ page isn’t huge on the details, but I do gather from a little research that they formed with the intention of being the ‘world’s first open-sourced supplement company’.
The company produces a number of supplements in various ranges, from ‘Essentials’ to brain brands. These include Dopamine Brain Food, Smart Caffeine and BrainBiotic. In fact, looking at the blog and the pop-up brain tests that plague their site (hint: it’s very annoying!!) much of their marketing suggests that they are your go-to brand for productivity and improved cognitive function.
Their branding is a cross between the natural form of a bee honeycomb and a scientific illustration of molecular structure. It’s kind of cool and definitely portrays what they are about.
What Ingredients inside CILTEP?
After I’ve waded through all the sales pitches and marketing speak, this, for me, is the interesting part. I’m already very happy to see that Natural Stacks are not hiding their ingredients behind a proprietary blend and have disclosed the amounts of each ingredient on the label.
So, what’s inside the CILTEP formula?
The ingredients listed are as follows:
Artichoke extract (900mg), Forskolin (20mg), Acetyl-L-Carnitine (750mg), L-Phenylalanine (500mg), Vitamin B6 (5mg)
I want to look at a few of these ingredients, specifically the ones I’ve never heard of, because I’d like to know what the thinking is behind using these ingredients and whether they really would have any effect on my memory and brain function.
I’ve looked at Examine.com which is a source I frequently use for science-based information on supplements. What I discover about artichoke extract is that there is a little (but more research needed) evidence to suggest that it may have an effect on the blood glucose levels of diabetics, and may have a lowering effect on cholesterol. Other claims seem to be unsubstantiated, although it has been used traditionally for centuries for its supposed liver-protecting properties. There doesn’t appear to be evidence that the main ingredient stated on the CILTEP site has any effect on brain function.
There is a lot of science talk on the CILTEP website about the ingredients and their effects on (specifically brain neuron transmission and the effects of enzymes on them) but I’m mainly interested in whether these ingredients have been recognised in scientific trials, specifically measuring the outcome they claim to have. So this is a chin-scratcher for me. On to the next one.
Forskolin derives from the plant Coleus Forskohlii and has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies have been done on its affect on cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) which is thought to have an effect on fat loss. It is still being researched. Although further research is needed it is thought that two 250mg supplements (so 500mg total) which contain 10% forskolin would be an effective dose. (Examine source)
Acetyl L-Carnatine is an altered version of the amino acid L-Carnitine which is used (mostly in body building supplements) due to its effect on cell mitochondria. While evidence doesn’t support the use in a fat-loss function, researchers have been looking at a daily dosage of ALCAR of around 630-2500mg for cognitive performance (as outlined by Examine).
L-Phenylalanine is an amino acid which the manufacturers claim is a building block for dopamine. I’m going to have to put it out there that there is not much research on this having any effect on mood or cognition.
Are There Any CILTEP Side Effects?
Because there is no caffeine present there is unlikely to be a ‘rush’ or jittery effect to taking this supplement which some people experience when caffeine or other stimulants are present, but it’s recommended that you take the minimum dose initially and increase gradually.
Does CILTEP Actually Work?
The idea is that you take 1-3 capsules a day, in the morning and about 20 minutes before you eat. They also recommend that you have one or two days off per week (strangely they suggest this is on the weekend? Clearly they don’t know what my weekends are like!!).
So three capsules would give me LOADs of artichoke (not much evidence to support), 60mg Forskolin (recommended dose is around 50mg daily), and 2250mg ALCAR (almost the maximum daily dose recommended).
The idea behind this product is that if you take it you will ‘think faster, remember more’, which is indeed hugely appealing to a customer. However even looking through the scientific formulas to the amounts of each ingredient on the label, I can only see a couple that might have proven cognitive effects in trials.
The makers state on their website that they are testing the product through ‘multiple placebo-controlled, double-blind University studies on its effectiveness’ although of course we have no idea when this statement was made, nor whether it is currently correct.
CILTEP Customer Reviews
The reviews on Natural Stacks own website are all glowing. So I’ll take a cross section from Amazon. Of 355 reviews 56% are 5-star and 18% are 1-star.
One of the best nootropics available5-star review
Gloomy brain fog1 star review
this stuff is great, will definitely buy more5 stars review
smooth flow nootropic – noticeable when not taken5 stars review
groggy and depressed1 star review
How to Take CILTEP
The makers recommend that you take 1-3 capsules per day immediately upon waking on an empty stomach.
Any Money Back Guarantee?
The manufacturers offer a 30-day 100% money back guarantee on unopened products.
Where to Buy CILTEP
What’s the Cost of CILTEP?
A jar of 60 capsules (20 doses of 3 capsules per day) costs $36.51, a two-pack is $72.03 (delivered every month), 3 packs are $99 and a six pack is $183.60.
With a daily cost of $2.40 (as you would need to buy two jars – only 20 daily doses in one) it’s the equivalent of a smoothie or a daily coffee (or daily super greens supplement), which some might think is OK value.
My Verdict: CILTEP Nootropic
There are definitely some positive elements to this product. Knowing what goes into any supplement is an absolute basic first step, so here’s a big thumbs-up to Natural Stacks for putting on their label the exact ingredient amounts.
The manufacturers have also made a small step towards recognising that some of their customers would like to see more actual evidence to support the claims behind the whole stack of supplements, so its good to see that they are undertaking some research. I’ll have my eyes open for the results.
It’s not the most expensive nootropic supplement on the market, so that’s also a bonus.
However, despite many companies now using this model of taking traditional herbs and plant-based ingredients (from Ayurveda, for example) and putting them together – with a huge amount of marketing – and coming up with a ‘new’ solution to age-old problems such as brain-fog, fatigue and cognitive stress, no-one has yet come up with the science that proves the desired outcome for us everyday folk. Despite big efforts to make us believe in them, I would have to see that it is more than just placebo working its stealthy magic.
I remain skeptical with CILTEP as a whole mostly around some of the ingredients in this stack, so I think I’ll continue my search for that gold-standard nootropic to take daily.