Brain Creatine Content in Vegetarians vs. Omnivores

Good news on the creatine front!

In October of 2010, I reported a study which found that creatine supplementation improved cognition in vegetarians and vegans (Creatine Improves Cognition in Vegetarians). A few months later, in December of 2010, I reported a study that found creatine supplementation in vegetarian and vegan women boosted their cognition to beyond that of omnivores who also supplemented (Creatine Improves Cognition to Beyond that of Omnivores).

Today I’m reporting on a 2013 study from Brazil that measured the brain creatine content of vegetarians and found it to be the same as for omnivores (1).

They compared the creatine content of the posterior cingulate cortex between vegetarians (6 women and 8 men) and omnivores. The posterior cingulate cortex was chosen because it is related to emotion formation and cognitive function (processing, learning and memory).

Although the vegetarians ate much less creatine than the omnivores (.03 vs. 1.34 g, respectively), they had similar brain creatine levels (6.0 vs. 5.9 IU, respectively). The authors say:

“It has been shown previously that oral [creatine] intake can have beneficial effects on cognitive function in vegetarians rather than in omnivorous individuals, suggesting that the former may show some deficit in brain [creatine] content. However, the present study refutes this hypothesis, reinforcing previous experimental data suggesting that brain [creatine] content relies primarily on local endogenous synthesis rather than on [creatine] dietary intake.”

I have updated the article Creatine.


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1. Yazigi Solis MY, de Salles Painelli V, Artioli GG, Roschel H, Otaduy MC, Gualano B. Brain creatine depletion in vegetarians? A cross-sectional 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) study. Br J Nutr. 2013 Nov 29:1-3. | link

11 Responses to “Brain Creatine Content in Vegetarians vs. Omnivores”

  1. Ariann Says:

    They only had one non vegetarian in this group. How do we know that guy just didn’t have low creatine himself?

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:


    > They only had one non vegetarian in this group. How do we know that guy just didn’t have low creatine himself?

    There were 14 non-vegetarians.

  3. Dan Says:

    This is very interesting. Some experts have been saying that we need more creatinine, choline, taurine and L-carnitine to match our non-vegetarian peers. Others have been saying “no”, and that choline/L-carnitine/creatine supplements are harmful.

    If you have a non-essential amino acid, then I think by definition it is non-essential – can be made by the liver from something else.

  4. Bertrand Russell Says:

    So what might explain why creatine supplementation seems to help veg cognition?

  5. Jack Norris RD Says:


    The study showing better memory in vegetarians after creatine supplementation had an interesting finding in that word recall (the only cognitive function which showed a difference from creatine supplementation) actually decreased in the placebo and omnivore-creatine groups. The vegetarians on creatine stayed about the same compared to baseline. The authors suggested that perhaps the words used after supplementation were harder to remember or that the participants lost interest in the study; they considered these explanations possible but unlikely based on the study design and other research. My guess is that, like in skeletal muscle, the body adapts to higher creatine intakes over time (which is why athletes are recommended not to take creatine all the time) and so perhaps a sudden intake of creatine increased the amounts in the brain for the vegetarians but not for the meat-eaters. In any case, I’d be surprised if this increase in word recall would affect daily life in any practical way unless your job is to be a contestant on Jeopardy, though I’m by no means an expert in cognitive testing so I could be wrong.

  6. Teale Says:

    Thanks for the article. Creatine, besides B12, is the one supplement that I’ve been really interested in lately. Primarily I’ve been reading about the benefits it may have for body builders. But, I had no idea it might improve cognitive function in vegans. I wonder why it helps.

  7. Ariann Says:

    Jack, thanks for clarifying. Your reference above is confusing because it seems like that parentheses is parallel to the one before it rather than a new reference.

  8. Jack Norris RD Says:


    I see – I cut that reference as it was redundant anyway. Thanks.

  9. Dan Says:

    Hi Jack,

    For vegans, is there any particular advantage to taking a B vitamin from the B complex series (B50, B75, B100) rather than just taking B12?

    For example, a B100 complex available in Canada contains:

    -Vitamin B1 (Thiamine Mononitrate) 100 mg
    -Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 100 mg
    -Niacinamide 100 mg
    -Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride) 100 mg
    -Folate (Folic Acid) 400 mcg
    -Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) 100 mcg
    -Biotin (Biotin) 100 mcg
    -Pantothenic Acid (d-Calcium Pantothenate) 100 mg
    -Inositol 100 mg
    -Choline (Choline Bitartrate) 40 mg

    (as well as hypromellose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, silicon dioxide, stearic acid, talc, triacetin and water)

    I imagine most of these B series vitamins, being water soluble, would just be peed out if present in excess in the body (ie if the diet is already sufficient to meet daily needs).

  10. Jack Norris RD Says:


    > For vegans, is there any particular advantage to taking a B vitamin from the B complex series (B50, B75, B100) rather than just taking B12?

    For most vegans, I would say no.

  11. The Omnivore Says:

    Very interesting although it seems like the study was too small for any truly conclusive results.

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