Researching medical news and scientific discoveries takes me through a lot of literature. I’ve often had to open textbooks to look up terms, and even had to reach out to friends in Academia to help explain concepts. That being said, I always get the answers. The real challenge is explaining those answers in terms that anyone can understand.
With the compound Methylliberine, I hit a rock and then a hard place: it’s a complicated compound to understand, and putting it into layman’s terms has been taxing. The good news for everyone is that the real question people want answered is, does it work? To answer that I’ll only spend a little bit of time on what it is, and then dive into whether it has any effect on cognition.
What is Methylliberine?
We’re going to go down a chemistry rabbit hole, but it won’t be for long. Methylliberine, sold under the brand name Dynamine, is a natural compound found in plants belonging to the black and green tea families, the coffee family, cola and cocoa families, and several other plants. It is an alkaloid, which we will need to know for later.
Alkaloids are bases, meaning the opposite of an acid. (A common household base is baking soda; soap, lye, and ammonia are others.)
Alkaloids in medicine have many uses, from morphine to ephedrine. Methylliberine is a newly researched alkaloid, and it is thought to be an energy transfer, similar to caffeine.
Is It Safe?
Would that we had a straight answer, but we don’t. Right now there just isn’t enough data to determine the safety of Methyelliberine. A manufacturer of Methylliberine, Compound Solutions, hired an independent third party lab in Seattle to test the safety of it; this is an important first step before anyone can perform clinical trials of a drug or substance.
The laboratory tested the compound exhaustively, and found no effects on human DNA; they also found no problems in animal experimentation–with the caveat that male rats had significant weight loss and atrophy of the testes. In high-dose animals, the weight loss and lack of testes growth did not improve even after 28 days past treatment.
A year later, Compound Solutions commissioned a second safety study, this time in live human participants, but only looking for body weight, blood pathogens, and heart rate outcomes. This study found that Methylliberine was safe for those outcomes, alone.
These data may make it seem that Methylliberine is safe, but consider that the human study was only 28 days long, and only had young adults; and that the animal study caused atrophied testes. None of this means Methylliberine is not safe, but none of the data were taken over a long enough time period, or studied for enough outcomes, to deem that it is completely safe on the strength of these studies alone.
Does it Work?
Here we have even less information than on its safety. Right at the outset, we should note that Compound Solutions has commissioned two studies (that are public) and in neither case did they ask researchers to look for any cognitive benefit. This could be because they want to establish the safety of the product first. That would be the best case scenario. Worst case scenario is that the manufacturer’s private data shows no benefit, and they don’t want to commission a public study confirming that.
What Research Does Exist
I was only able to find two extant studies of Methylliberine on cognitive performance–if we can call it that. Only one of the studies is peer-reviewed. But the real problem with both studies is that they only tested for Methylliberine combined with caffeine and theacrine.
Theacrine is also an alkaloid of the same plants as Methylliberine. Limited research has indicated it can be good for mood and energy, but less data exists for its use as a cognitive enhancer. Similar results have been seen with caffeine, on its own. It is easy to see the big problem with both of these studies: they were testing three variables at once, and all three have supposed nootropic benefits. Even if they do see positive results, how can anyone know if it was the theacrine, the caffeine, or the Methylliberine?
The peer-reviewed study saw an increase in attention and processing, but also saw an increase in cortisol. While the authors said this may be a good thing, long-term increases in cortisol are universally a bad thing.
In the second, non-peer-reviewed study, they saw an increase in cognitive and motor capabilities, with a decrease in “jitters” compared to caffeine alone.
My last issue with these studies is that both of them were conducted on video game players. I have nothing against video game players, but there is no empirical data that makes first-person-shooters (as in one study) the baseline for cognitive performance.
The short answer on Methylliberine and cognitive function is that only two studies show any “proof” whatsoever. The studies, though, are flawed in multiple ways, and cannot be relied on.
As I’ve mentioned, Methylliberine is a similar alkaloid to theacrine, a much more widely-studied compound, and is present in the same plants–as is caffeine. Some people have taken this common presence in plants and chemical families to propose that they can have the same effects.
This is erroneous for several reasons. After all, water and hydrogen peroxide are only one atom different (H2O and H2O2). But in this case we also have empirical evidence. In two separate studies, a team of researchers have demonstrated that Methylliberine affects caffeine, but not the other way around–and that theacrine has the opposite relationship.This basic chemical interaction difference should be enough to indicate that in larger scale applications, theacrine and Methylliberine are not guaranteed to affect the same results, even if theacrine is shown to increase cognitive function.
Methylliberine is an exciting compound for study–if someone happens to be a chemist or botanist. For the rest of us, there just isn’t any proof of concept that it can benefit cognitive functions. Not to mention the fact that it hasn’t been proven completely safe. For now, more research is needed, with strict parameters and universally recognized metrics. Until then, Methylliberine has no good science supporting its use as a nootropic.