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Nutrients 2011, 3(8), 735-755; doi:10.3390/nu3080735

Metabolic Agents that Enhance ATP can Improve Cognitive Functioning: A Review of the Evidence for Glucose, Oxygen, Pyruvate, Creatine, and l-Carnitine

Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Victoria 3122, Australia
Department of Psychology, Fylde College University of Lancaster, Lancaster LA1 4YW, England, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 June 2011 / Revised: 18 July 2011 / Accepted: 4 August 2011 / Published: 10 August 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Benefits of Nutrients)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [185 KB, uploaded 10 August 2011]


Over the past four or five decades, there has been increasing interest in the neurochemical regulation of cognition. This field received considerable attention in the 1980s, with the identification of possible cognition enhancing agents or “smart drugs”. Even though many of the optimistic claims for some agents have proven premature, evidence suggests that several metabolic agents may prove to be effective in improving and preserving cognitive performance and may lead to better cognitive aging through the lifespan. Aging is characterized by a progressive deterioration in physiological functions and metabolic processes. There are a number of agents with the potential to improve metabolic activity. Research is now beginning to identify these various agents and delineate their potential usefulness for improving cognition in health and disease. This review provides a brief overview of the metabolic agents glucose, oxygen, pyruvate, creatine, and l-carnitine and their beneficial effects on cognitive function. These agents are directly responsible for generating ATP (adenosine triphosphate) the main cellular currency of energy. The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body and as such is particularly vulnerable to disruption of energy resources. Therefore interventions that sustain adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels may have importance for improving neuronal dysfunction and loss. Moreover, recently, it has been observed that environmental conditions and diet can affect transgenerational gene expression via epigenetic mechanisms. Metabolic agents might play a role in regulation of nutritional epigenetic effects. In summary, the reviewed metabolic agents represent a promising strategy for improving cognitive function and possibly slowing or preventing cognitive decline. View Full-Text
Keywords: metabolic agents; glucose; oxygen; pyruvate; creatine; l-carnitine; cognition; ageing metabolic agents; glucose; oxygen; pyruvate; creatine; l-carnitine; cognition; ageing
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Owen, L.; Sunram-Lea, S.I. Metabolic Agents that Enhance ATP can Improve Cognitive Functioning: A Review of the Evidence for Glucose, Oxygen, Pyruvate, Creatine, and l-Carnitine. Nutrients 2011, 3, 735-755.

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