NMU 129 – Creatine Improves Neurocognition in Vegetarians
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 129 (May 14, 2019)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Vegetarians Benefit from Creatine Supplementation to Boost Brain Performance
Source: The American Physiology Society Press Release (April 8, 2019)
There is an impressive trend among young people who are moving in large numbers to a more vegetarian lifestyle. Sometimes it is for health reasons, as vegetarians show a lower incidence of many cancers as well as heart and cardiovascular disease. In some cases, it is more for ethical reasons, with respect to the desire not to kill or harm animals or to reduce environmental CO2 emissions and/or preserve the rain forests, etc.
One of the few negative consequences of a vegetarian diet, though, is that it is low an important nutrient known as creatine. Creatine required by muscles to support lean mass muscle, muscle growth with exercise and strength. Creatine is also required by the brain as an important substance to help generate energy and maintain optimal brain function. Meat, pork, poultry, and fish are quite rich in creatine, and thus studies show that the brain cells of people who regularly consume these animal protein foods are higher in creatine than the brain cells of vegetarians.
A team of researchers from Stetson University in Florida conducted an interesting study using creatine supplementation in vegetarians. They had vegetarian subjects take a neurocognitive test (ImPACT Test) prior to creatine supplementation and then had some of the vegetarians take a creatine supplement each day for 4-weeks, while the other group did not take a creatine supplement. The neurocognitive test was retaken at the end of the 4-weeks and the results showed that those who ingested the creatine saw significant improvement in their neurocognitive scores.
What is a neurocognitive function you ask? – it’s having to do with the ability to think and reason. This includes the ability to concentrate, remember things, process information, learn, speak, and understand. So, creatine supplementation improves these important brain functions that we use every day. Meat eaters who consumed creatine, in the same study, did not see an improvement in their neurocognitive scores because their brains already had ample creatine from the consumption of these flesh-based animal protein foods. By the way, dairy products have very little creatine in case you are wondering.
So, if you are a vegetarian or moving towards a more vegetarian diet it may be in your best interest to begin using a creatine supplement. Typically, creatine comes as a powder, whereby you mix 1-2 teaspoons into a bit of juice or protein shake and consume it that way. Adding creatine in this way can help to improve or maintain a more optimal neurocognitive function. So, it’s an important consideration. Creatine can also help to preserve and increase muscle-lean mass and prevent it from declining as you age. I personally add 2 teaspoons (10 gm) of creatine monohydrate powder to my morning breakfast shake of whey protein 4-5 times per week.
I have included the research reference for this study in the text below.
The American Physiology Society Press Release (annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2019 in Orlando Florida). April 8, 2019
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