Brain Boost: Sports supplement shown to enhance memory and IQ

Research by Australian scientists has shown that taking creatine can give a significant boost to both working memory and general intelligence. The study monitored the effect of creatine supplementation on 45 young adult vegetarian subjects in a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment.

Athletes have known that creatine supplementation can increase sports performance and the compound – a close relative of the amino acids – has also been trialled successfully in the treatment of neurological, neuromuscular and atherosclerotic disease. “We know that creatine plays a pivotal role in maintaining energy levels in the brain,” says researcher Dr Carolyn Rae. “So it was a reasonable hypothesis that supplementing a diet with creatine could assist brain function.”

The effect on working memory was tested using a number test in which the subject has to repeat, in reverse order, progressively longer verbal random number sequences. Intelligence was tested using a validated methodology commonly used for IQ assessment.

“The results were clear with both our experimental groups and in both test scenarios: creatine supplementation gave a significant measurable boost to brain power. For example, in the number test, the subjects’ ability to remember long numbers improved from a number length of about 7 to an average of 8.5 digits,” reports Dr Rae.

The study shows that increased creatine intake results in improved brain function, similar to effects shown previously in muscle and heart. The results agree with previous observations showing that brain creatine levels correlate with improved recognition memory and reduced mental fatigue.

Because long-term supplementation with creatine has yet to be declared safe due to reported effects on blood sugar levels, Rae says “creatine supplementation may be of use to those requiring boosted mental performance in the short term – for example, university students.”

The Royal Society Proceedings B, Aug 13, 2003