Study explores effects of microalgae extract and guarana in esports players

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© mihailomilovanovic / Getty Images
© mihailomilovanovic / Getty Images

Related tags microalgae Carotenoid eSports gaming Cognitive function

Competitive gamers who consume a complex of microalgae and guarana extracts prior to online play may experience improved reaction times, cognitive function and performance.

“To succeed at gaming, players must have quick reaction skills and high cognitive abilities to assess and respond to game challenges,” wrote the research team led by Dr. Richard Kreider, director of the Exercise & Sport Nutrition Lab at Texas A&M University. “Consequently, identifying strategies to improve cognitive function, delay mental fatigue, and maintain psychomotor skills is imperative for success.”

The study, published in the journal Nutrients​, was supported by French microalgal ingredients manufacturer Mycrophyt. In 2019, the company received New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) status from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its flagship PhaeoSOL microalgae-based nutritional ingredient (standardized to 2% fucoxanthin). 

Powering-up esports performance

In this study, the researchers used low- and high-dose formulations of Mycrophyt’s GamePhyt ingredient, currently marketed to gamers “to power-up esports performances.” The complex combines the standardized fucoxanthin microalgal extract and a guarana extract (as natural caffeine source) for central nervous system stimulation. 

Fucoxanthin, a carotenoid found in specific microalgae varieties such as Phaeodactylum tricornutum (PT)​ is believed to possess nootropic and neuroprotective effects thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

The study highlighted previous research showing that PT ​improved short-term and spatial working memory, decreased brain and blood inflammation and oxidative stress for neuroprotection, improved learning ability by increasing neuronal networks, and increased the speed of propagation of nerve impulses. There is also evidence​ that guarana might synergistically optimize the benefits of the antioxidant multivitamin complex on cognitive performance in healthy populations.

Study details

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study recruited 61 experienced gamers between the ages of 17 and 25 years (51 men and 10 women) and randomly assigned them to either a sunflower oil placebo group, a low-dose group (440 mg of PT ​extract including 1% fucoxanthin +500 mg of guarana containing 40–44 mg caffeine) or a high-dose group (880 mg of PT ​extract +500 mg of guarana). 

Participants completed a battery of cognitive function tests, light-tracking reaction tests and questionnaires prior to supplementation, 15 min post-supplementation, and after 60 min of competitive gameplay using their preferred video game. Tests were repeated following 30 days of supplementation.

“The results provide some evidence that acute and 30-day ingestion of microalgae extract from PT ​combined with guarana may improve reasoning, learning, executive control, attention shifting, and impulsiveness,” the study concluded. “While some acute effects were noted after 15 min of ingestion and after gaming, the greatest impact appeared after 30 days with some benefits seen at both low and high doses.”

Results also suggested that supplementation at both doses may support mood state after acute and 30-day supplementation, and participants in the high-dose group reported a significant reduction in eye irritation after the 30 days.  

The study called for further research to understand the mechanisms of action and into potential applications in athletes, students, and people suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression.

Dr. Kreider confirmed that his lab is completing a study on the efficacy of 12-weeks of Phaesol supplementation in overweight and moderately obese women participating in an exercise and weight management program, with a presentation of preliminary findings planned for the International Society Of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) meeting in June. A second study is also underway to investigate the effects of 12-weeks of supplementation with Mycrophyt's BrainPhyt product on cognitive function in older participants with some evidence of mild cognitive impairment. 

Source: Nutrients2023​, 15,1918
“Effects of Dietary Supplementation of a Microalgae Extract Containing Fucoxanthin Combined with Guarana on Cognitive Function and Gaming Performance”
Authors: Richard Kreider et al.

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