Brain uses lactate as fuel during strenous muscular exercises

October 1st, 2008 - 3:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 1 (IANS) The human brain, just like muscles, works harder during strenuous exercise and uses lactate rather than glucose as fuel, according to a new study by Dutch scientists. Not only does this finding help explain why the brain is able to work properly when the body’s demands for fuel and oxygen are highest, but it goes a step further to show that the brain actually shifts into a higher gear in terms of activity.

This opens doors to entirely new areas of brain research related to understanding lactate’s specific neurological effects.

“Now that we know the brain can run on lactate, so to speak, future studies should show us when to use lactate as part of a treatment,” said Gerald Weissmann, a specialist and editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal.

“From an evolutionary perspective, the result of this study is a no-brainer. Imagine what could have or did happen to all of the organisms that lost their wits along with their glucose when running from predators. They were obviously a light snack for the animals able to use lactate.”

To reach their conclusion, the researchers looked at studies that compared the blood running to and from the heads of volunteers undergoing strenuous exercise, according to a release of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

They found that the blood on its way to the brain contained considerably more lactate than blood flowing away from the brain. Further investigation showed that the brain was not storing the lactate which had come from the muscles during exercise, but rather using it as fuel.

In fact, the brain helped to clear lactate from the circulation, thereby leaving glucose to the muscles that need it for the hard work they were performing.

These findings were published in the October issue of The FASEB Journal.

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