Brains and brawn? Beta-alanine may support cognitive function for older adults

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Daisy-Daisy / Getty Images
© Daisy-Daisy / Getty Images

Related tags beta-alanine Cognitive function Cognitive health healthy aging supplementation

Ten weeks of supplementation with beta-alanine may improve cognitive function in older adults with below normal scores, says a new study from Israel.

Data published in Nutrients​ indicated that supplementation with 2.4 grams per day of beta-alanine (BA) also led to reductions in scores on the geriatric depression scale (GDS).

“To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first to demonstrate that BA supplementation improves cognitive function in older adults, whose baseline cognitive function was borderline normal to below normal,” ​wrote scientists from Ariel University and Tel Aviv University.

“Considering that there is no evidence indicating that BA supplementation is ergogenic for cognitive improvements, the potential benefits observed in older adults with borderline normal or below cognitive function is the result of potential anti-inflammatory or antioxidant action resulting from carnosine elevation in brain tissue.”

Brawn and brain

2015 position paper put out by ISSN​ states that in the opinion of the expert panel beta-alanine supplementation in sufficient dosages and over a sufficient period of time (4-6 grams a day and 4 weeks) can boost intramuscular carnosine concentrations and increase performance, especially for short, burst-type actions of four minutes or less.  The ingredient may also benefit older consumers by attenuating neuromuscular fatigue.

The new study indicated that the ingredient may also have a role in cognitive health, for older people with suboptimal cognitive function at least.

Study details

The Israel-based scientists recruited 100 older adults (average age of 71) to participate in their randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The adults were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or beta-alanine supplements every day for 10 weeks.

All participants were subject to a battery of cognitive function tests, including the Montreal cognitive assessment (MOCA) and the Stroop pattern recognition test, while questionnaires were used to measure the participants against the geriatric depression scale (GDS) and geriatric anxiety scale (GAS).

In general, the researchers found no differences between the groups for MOCA scores, but when they focused their analysis of people with below normal cognitive function at the start of the study, they found that beta-alanine supplementation was associated with significant improvements in MOCA scores after five and 10 weeks (14% and 12%, respectively).

In addition, while there were no impacts on mood scores or the GAS, beta-alanine supplementation was associated with a significant decrease in the GDS compared to placebo.

Commenting on the potential mechanism(s) of action, the researchers said that the effects may be linked to increases in brain carnosine levels, which themselves may reduce brain inflammation and boost neurotrophin expression.

“The results of the present study provide evidence that BA can improve cognitive function in older adults whose cognitive abilities are borderline or below normal. However, the mechanism remains speculative,”​ they stated.

Source: Nutrients
2023, 15(4), 923; doi: 10.3390/nu15040923
“Role of β-Alanine Supplementation on Cognitive Function, Mood, and Physical Function in Older Adults; Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Study”
Authors: I. Ostfeld et al.


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