Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on brain homocarnosine/carnosine signal and cognitive function: an exploratory study

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 14;10(4):e0123857. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123857. eCollection 2015.


Objectives: Two independent studies were conducted to examine the effects of 28 d of beta-alanine supplementation at 6.4 g d(-1) on brain homocarnosine/carnosine signal in omnivores and vegetarians (Study 1) and on cognitive function before and after exercise in trained cyclists (Study 2).

Methods: In Study 1, seven healthy vegetarians (3 women and 4 men) and seven age- and sex-matched omnivores undertook a brain 1H-MRS exam at baseline and after beta-alanine supplementation. In study 2, nineteen trained male cyclists completed four 20-Km cycling time trials (two pre supplementation and two post supplementation), with a battery of cognitive function tests (Stroop test, Sternberg paradigm, Rapid Visual Information Processing task) being performed before and after exercise on each occasion.

Results: In Study 1, there were no within-group effects of beta-alanine supplementation on brain homocarnosine/carnosine signal in either vegetarians (p = 0.99) or omnivores (p = 0.27); nor was there any effect when data from both groups were pooled (p = 0.19). Similarly, there was no group by time interaction for brain homocarnosine/carnosine signal (p = 0.27). In study 2, exercise improved cognitive function across all tests (P < 0.05), although there was no effect (P>0.05) of beta-alanine supplementation on response times or accuracy for the Stroop test, Sternberg paradigm or RVIP task at rest or after exercise.

Conclusion: 28 d of beta-alanine supplementation at 6.4 g d(-1) appeared not to influence brain homocarnosine/carnosine signal in either omnivores or vegetarians; nor did it influence cognitive function before or after exercise in trained cyclists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes / psychology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Carnosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Carnosine / metabolism*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • beta-Alanine / pharmacology*


  • beta-Alanine
  • Carnosine

Grant support

The authors are grateful to Fundação do Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP grants #2010/11221-0, #2011/17059/2 and #2013/04806-0). In addition, the authors are thankful to Natural Alternatives International (NAI) for providing the supplements for Study 2. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.