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LE Magazine February 2004
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The “Strength Supplement” that Improves Brain Power
By Dr. Edward R. Rosick

Some researchers believe that creatine may even be useful in combating the debilitating mental effects of Alzheimer’s disease. In cultured rat neurons, creatine has been shown to prevent the toxic effects of b-amyloid, a significant component of Alzheimer’s disease. With this in mind, the authors of a recent study that examined elderly patients who have the ApoE genotype (known to be a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s) stated: “… the potentially therapeutic effects of creatine in cognitive impairment and AD [Alzheimer’s disease] might merit further inquiry and should perhaps best not be overlooked.”9

Keeping Mind and Memory Strong
While creatine may prove useful in combating some of our most debilitating neurological diseases, recently published research highlights how creatine can help people without neurological disorders maintain optimal brain function and even improve memory.

Several well-researched studies have conclusively demonstrated that brain creatine levels are tied to optimal memory ability and retention. One study published in 2000 examined working memory ability—defined as the brain’s capacity to “hold” information for future use without the use of external cues—in children using magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure various brain neurochemicals.10 The researchers found that children with the highest levels of creatine had the most robust working memory, and concluded: “… we speculate that higher resting creatine levels may allow for greater in-task activation [and] facilitate processing.”

Brain creatine levels also have been found to correlate with memory ability in older adults. A study published in February 2003 examined via magnetic resonance spectroscopy changes in the brain in 20 older adults (average age of 70) during memory training tasks.11 The researchers found that brain creatine levels rose during memory training. Another article published recently in Neuroscience Research examined the effects of supplemental creatine on mental fatigue in 24 adult men and women.12 In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, subjects who took 8 grams of creatine daily over a five-day period showed significantly less mental fatigue while performing simple mathematical calculations compared to the subjects who did not take creatine. The authors noted that while they did not know the specific mechanism of action, creatine appeared to help increase oxygen utilization in the brain.

Maintaining Optimal Brain Health
A study published in October 2003 sheds additional light on creatine’s ability to increase memory and even intelligence.13 The researchers used vegetarians as their subjects, postulating that creatine supplementation might be more effective in vegans because they do not derive much creatine from their diet (creatine is found mainly in meat). Forty-five subjects (12 men and 33 women) aged 19 to 37 were enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study for a period of six weeks, during which some subjects were supplemented with 5 grams per day of creatine while the others received placebo. Both groups then took a battery of tests examining their memory and analytical skills. This was followed by a six-week “washout” period, during which no creatine or placebo was given, and then another six­-week trial during which subjects who received creatine in the first trial were given placebo, and vice versa. Following this, another battery of tests for memory and intelligence was administered.

As in earlier studies, subjects who took creatine scored significantly higher on tests for both memory and analytical skills compared to those who took placebo. The study’s authors concluded: “creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory and intelligence, both tasks that require [mental] speed of processing. These findings underline a dynamic and significant role of brain energy capacity [and creatine] in influencing brain performance.”

However begrudgingly and slow, mainstream medicine appears to be coming to the acceptance that the brain and body are one. Many have long held the notion that one has to forsake the brain to develop the body, and vice versa. Creatine, however, has been shown in multiple studies to be a safe, effective supplement that nourishes both the mind and body, helping each to achieve greater levels of functioning.

References

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3. Wyss M, Schulze A. Health implications of creatine: can oral creatine supplementation protect against neurological and atheroscle- rotic disease? Neuroscience. 2002;112(2):243-60.

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5. Beal MF. Mitochondria, oxidative damage, and inflammation in Parkinson’s disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Jun;991:120-31.

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7. Matthews RT, Yang L, Jenkins BG, et al. Neuroprotective effects of creatine and cyclocreatine in animal models of Huntington’s disease. J Neurosci. 1998 Jan 1;18(1):156-63.

8. Tabrizi SJ, Blamire AM, Manners DN, et al. Creatine therapy for Huntington’s disease: Clinical and MRS findings in a 1-year pilot study. Neurology. 2003 Jul 8;61(1):141-2.

9. Laakso MP, Hiltunen Y, Kononen M, et al. Decreased brain creatine levels in elderly apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 carriers. J Neural Transm. 2003 Mar;110(3):267-75.

10. Yeo RA, Hill D, Campbell R, Vigil J, Brooks WM. Developmental instability and working memory ability in children: a mag- netic resonance spectroscopy investigation. Dev Neuropsychol. 2000;17(2):143-59.

11. Valenzuela MJ, Jones M, Wen W, et al. Memory training alters hippocampal neuro- chemistry in healthy elderly. Neuroreport. 2003 Jul 18;14(10):1333-7.

12. Watanabe A, Kato N, Kato T. Effects of cre- atine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation. Neurosci Res.
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13. Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2003 Oct 22;270(1529):2147-50.