A Systematic Review of the Effect of Dietary Supplements on Cognitive Performance in Healthy Young Adults and Military personnel.

Diane Pomeroy, Katie Tooley, Bianka Probert, Alexandra Wilson, Eva Kemps

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Intake of dietary supplements has increased, despite evidence that some of these have adverse side effects and uncertainty about their effectiveness. This systematic review examined the evidence for the cognitive benefits of a wide range of dietary supplements in healthy young adult samples; the aim was to identify if any might be useful for optimising cognitive performance during deployment in military personnel. Searches were conducted in 9 databases and 13 grey literature repositories for relevant studies published between January 2000 and June 2017. Eligible studies recruited healthy young adults (18–35 years), administered a legal dietary supplement, included a comparison control group, and assessed cognitive outcome(s). Thirty-seven of 394 identified studies met inclusion criteria and were included for synthesis. Most research was deemed of low quality (72.97%; SIGN50 guidelines), highlighting the need for sound empirical research in this area. Nonetheless, we suggest that tyrosine or caffeine could be used in healthy young adults in a military context to enhance cognitive performance when personnel are sleep-deprived. Caffeine also has the potential benefit of improving vigilance and attention during sustained operations offering little opportunity for sleep. Inconsistent findings and methodological limitations preclude firm recommendations about the use of other specific dietary supplements.
Original languageEnglish
Article number545
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • dietary supplements
  • cognition
  • cognitive performance enhancement
  • military
  • health young adults
  • Healthy young adults
  • Dietary supplements
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive performance enhancement
  • Military


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