Vegetarians may be able to boost brain function by supplementing with creatine. Creatine is best known as a sports supplement to enhance sports performance, but new research shows it increases brain function too – but only for non-meat eaters.
Creatine for Brain Function in Vegetarians?
Most research on creatine has focused on its use as a sports supplement. But previous studies suggest that it boosts brain energy levels in the brain and could have benefits for treating certain brain diseases. Creatine is intimately involved in energy production by boosting levels of ATP, the form of energy cells use for power. Most of the creatine in the body is found in muscle cells, which is why supplementing with creatine enhances muscle performance in athletes.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers gave 121 young women, some of whom ate a vegetarian diet, either 20 grams of creatine monohydrate per day or a placebo pill for 5 days. At the end of the study they tested their brain power through cognitive testing. The results? The vegetarian women who took creatine supplements had a 40% improvement in memory compared to those who took a placebo.
This isn’t the first research to show that creatine enhances brain function in vegetarians. A study in 2003 found that supplementing non-meat eater’s with creatine boosted their ability to do tests that require fast brain power, and they were able to remember longer sequences of numbers after taking creatine.
It Only Enhances Brain Function in Vegetarians
These results are impressive, but don’t count on creatine to enhance cognitive function if you’re a meat eater. Creatine is mainly found in meat and animal products, so most vegetarians are creatine deficient, while meat eaters probably get enough creatine through their normal diet.
Creatine for Brain Function: Should Vegetarians Supplement?
Unfortunately, no one knows the long-term effects of taking creatine supplements. The 20 gram per day dose used in this study is comparable to the amount athletes use for sports performance, and there have been no ill effects with the exception of isolated cases of muscle cramps and diarrhea.
On the other hand, there is concern that creatine could make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugars, so it’s not a good option for people with diabetes. There are also questions about how it affects kidney function long-term.
There are vegetarian creatine supplements available at health food stores and natural food markets, but whether taking these supplements is safe for long periods of time is questionable.
Creatine to Enhance Brain Function: The Bottom Line?
Some vegetarians may benefit from more creatine in their diet, but the only way to get it is by using a vegetarian creatine supplement. All in all, it may be best to wait for research on the longer term health effects of creatine supplements.
Nutraingredients-USA.com. “Creatine May Beef Up Brain Function”
Science Daily. “Boost Your Brain Power”