SYDNEY--In addition to its muscle-enhancing activity, creatine may also be able to improve brain power, according to research out of the University of Sydney and Macquarie University in Australia who are scheduled to be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences (www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk) in October. The human clinical trial involved 45 young adult vegetarian subjects who were chosen because meat eaters get a variable level of creatine from their diets.
"We know that creatine plays a pivotal role in maintaining energy levels in the brain," said Caroline Rae, who led the research. "So it was a reasonable hypothesis that supplementing a diet with creatine could assist brain function." Subjects were divided into two groups, with one group receiving placebo and the other 5 g/d of supplemental creatine, levels that are known to increase brain creatine levels. This regimen was maintained for six weeks, followed by a six-week washout period, and then regimens were reversed.
To determine the impact creatine had on brain function, researchers measured intelligence and memory at baseline, after the first six weeks, at the beginning of the final six-week phase, and at the end of the trial. Results showed creatine supplementation improved both working memory and general intelligence, according to the researchers. They also noted these results mirror previous observations showing brain creatine levels correlate with improved recognition memory and reduced mental fatigue.
"These findings underline a dynamic and significant role of brain energy capacity in influencing brain performance," Rae said. "Increasing the energy available for computation increases the power of the brain and this is reflected directly in improved general ability."
Researchers issued one note of caution with their good news: Creatine supplementation may have antisocial effects and long-term use has not been declared safe. "To be frank, taking the supplement can make you a considerably less 'fragrant' person," Rae said. "However, creatine supplementation may be of use to those requiring boosted mental performance in the short term--for example, university students."