Creatine Brain Fuel Supplementation

Creatine Brain Fuel Supplementation
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Vegetarians appear to get more of a cognitive boost than meat-eaters from creatine supplementation.

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The brain only takes up about 2% of body weight, but may use up 25% of the body’s energy. We have supercomputers in our heads, and they drain a lot of power. That’s where this molecule comes in: creatine. It acts as a quick reserve energy boost when your fuel supply—oxygen and blood sugar—is running low. Creatine is naturally produced in our liver, kidneys, and pancreas, and transported to the brain and our muscles—the two places we need the most rapid energy deployment.

Now if you were to take a Hannibal Lecter bite out of someone, would that extra creatine you eat, on top of what you’re already making, give your brain a boost? That study might not get past the ethics board, but this one did: “The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores.”

In this simplified, normalized version of the data, before the creatine supplement was consumed, the memory capacity of the vegetarians and meat-eaters was similar (vegetarians in white; meat-eaters in black). So, they started out about the same place.

However, after four days of consuming a creatine supplement, memory was better in vegetarians, compared to those who consumed meat, whereas in those who were meat-eaters, the consumption of the creatine supplement was associated with poorer memory, compared to baseline. So, the vegetarians got a brain boost, but the meat-eaters didn’t.

This may be because meat-eaters have downregulated creatine synthesis. Their body doesn’t make a whole lot, because they get it in their diet by eating muscles. Maybe not this kind of calf, but at least maybe this one.

So, their body is like, “Why bother,” whereas the vegetarians are cranking the stuff out all the time. So when they take a creatine supplement, it may be like they’re getting a double dose. They’re getting what they take, in addition to what they already make.

Still too early to tell what’s really going on, but in the meanwhile, if you eat vegetarian, should you consider taking creatine supplements? “Creatine: are the benefits worth the risk?” This is in the context of sports supplementation.

That was actually asked more generally of the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Health Letter recently, to which he replied, “For now, to be on the safe side, I’d advise against taking creatine, concerned that creatine supplements might contain toxic impurities.”

Was he just being paranoid? Nope. “Levels of…organic contaminants and heavy metals in creatine…supplements.” They tested 33 different brands on the market, and found a whopping 50% of them exceeded the maximum level recommended by the European Food Safety Authority for at least one contaminant.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Dwayne Reed, Yikrazuul, AndreasPraefcke and Sbrools via Wikimedia Commons.

The brain only takes up about 2% of body weight, but may use up 25% of the body’s energy. We have supercomputers in our heads, and they drain a lot of power. That’s where this molecule comes in: creatine. It acts as a quick reserve energy boost when your fuel supply—oxygen and blood sugar—is running low. Creatine is naturally produced in our liver, kidneys, and pancreas, and transported to the brain and our muscles—the two places we need the most rapid energy deployment.

Now if you were to take a Hannibal Lecter bite out of someone, would that extra creatine you eat, on top of what you’re already making, give your brain a boost? That study might not get past the ethics board, but this one did: “The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores.”

In this simplified, normalized version of the data, before the creatine supplement was consumed, the memory capacity of the vegetarians and meat-eaters was similar (vegetarians in white; meat-eaters in black). So, they started out about the same place.

However, after four days of consuming a creatine supplement, memory was better in vegetarians, compared to those who consumed meat, whereas in those who were meat-eaters, the consumption of the creatine supplement was associated with poorer memory, compared to baseline. So, the vegetarians got a brain boost, but the meat-eaters didn’t.

This may be because meat-eaters have downregulated creatine synthesis. Their body doesn’t make a whole lot, because they get it in their diet by eating muscles. Maybe not this kind of calf, but at least maybe this one.

So, their body is like, “Why bother,” whereas the vegetarians are cranking the stuff out all the time. So when they take a creatine supplement, it may be like they’re getting a double dose. They’re getting what they take, in addition to what they already make.

Still too early to tell what’s really going on, but in the meanwhile, if you eat vegetarian, should you consider taking creatine supplements? “Creatine: are the benefits worth the risk?” This is in the context of sports supplementation.

That was actually asked more generally of the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Health Letter recently, to which he replied, “For now, to be on the safe side, I’d advise against taking creatine, concerned that creatine supplements might contain toxic impurities.”

Was he just being paranoid? Nope. “Levels of…organic contaminants and heavy metals in creatine…supplements.” They tested 33 different brands on the market, and found a whopping 50% of them exceeded the maximum level recommended by the European Food Safety Authority for at least one contaminant.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Dwayne Reed, Yikrazuul, AndreasPraefcke and Sbrools via Wikimedia Commons.

Nota del Doctor

For some background on creatine, see When Meat Can Be a Lifesaver. Also check out my other videos on brain health, including Constructing a Cognitive PortfolioImproving Mood Through Diet; and Reversing Cognitive Decline. Note that the contaminant study is open access, so you can download it by clicking on the link in the Sources Cited section, above.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Probiotics and Diarrhea.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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