Following a 20-year career as a medical doctor, Noggin Founder Dr. Clara Doran observed a clear growing prevalence of sleep and stress issues in her patients, whilst her own neurological disease diagnosis led her to discover the power of nutrition for brain health.
“Around 10 years ago while I was a GP I had my son, and shortly after I started to have some unusual symptoms,” she told NutraIngredients. “I became quite unwell, and eventually I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which was a massive shock and a tough thing to come to terms with. But what came from that was a new-found desire to really understand more about health and well-being, particularly around brain health.”
She said that despite expert medical care and a good team supporting her, she still felt like there were a lot of things she didn’t know and “a lot of weird symptoms that just weren’t being answered by traditional medicine”.
This led her to study functional medicine followed by sleep medicine at the University of Edinburgh, which opened her eyes to the importance of factors such as lifestyle and sleep for health, and their effect on brain health.
“There hadn’t really been much room for nutrition in my conventional medical training,” Doran said. “And I really began to understand why it was so important and the evidence that backed all that up.”
Discussing her interest in supplements, she added: “I had always worked on the premise that if there wasn’t a tested deficiency, then there was really no need for supplements. But my view on that changed.
“I learnt more about functional medicine and understood how the right supplements in the right format could be helpful to optimise health and also could support with some of the symptoms I was dealing with, as well as brain care and mental health in the longer term.”
This journey inspired the company’s first product Oomph, which contains a blend of Panax ginseng and Rhodiola rosea botanicals, the functional mushroom lion’s mane, as well as B vitamins and zinc to support energy levels, cognition and focus. The supplement also contains the fatty acid phosphatidylcholine, which has been shown to maintain cell membranes and support learning and memory, as well as the antioxidant L-glutathione for oxidative stress protection within the brain.
“The brain is such an energy hungry organ,” Doran explained. “It’s 2% of our body weight but 20% of our energy consumption. Nutrients such as B vitamins are essential to so many processes that go on in the brain. And whilst they’re in a lot of the foods we eat, lots of us would benefit from having optimal doses.”
She added that all the ingredients have a strong backing of scientific evidence, noting as example a recent study on the potential of lion’s mane to promote the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) whilst enabling brain cell growth.
“Ginseng was something that I was really passionate about because I know that it gives energy quite quickly but not in a jittery way that products with caffeine sometimes do,” she added.
Noggin’s product portfolio also includes FOGO, which aims to alleviate menopausal symptoms, and sleep health supplement Pause to support relaxation and calmness, target stress and anxiety, and promote sleep.
“I didn’t want to make something that was just as simple sleep aid, because the reasons that we’re not sleeping are variable, and one of the key reasons is stress,” Doran said. “The adaptogens Rhodiola and ashwagandha have been shown to help build resilience in times of stress, and along with lemon balm and hops gives a calming effect to help us deal with difficult feelings and stressful times, whilst improving the quality of your sleep.”
Doran explained that the key with supplements is that people want to know when they’re going to feel any benefit, adding that it can take up to three months to correct nutritional deficiencies.
However, she noted that an unpublished in-house trial on 10 to 15 participants revealed benefits to energy and focus levels following only two weeks of Oomph supplementation. And although the sample was small, she said the results are encouraging to promote further research and inform future product development.
“We are working with Aberdeen University in the second half of this year to work on a children’s product, which is exciting,” she said. “We’ve got lots of ideas for that, but we really wanted to get the science absolutely spot on and create something unique.
“The market for children’s products is so mixed with so many sugary products and gummies, but we want to make something different. We believe strongly that brain health begins with kids, and we want to build something that can support that.”