Neurotransmitters, on a very simplified level, are like mail carriers. They deliver messages to nerve cells that tell the neurons what to do. When they do their job correctly, everything works well. But one particular neurotransmitter, glutamate, can become toxic to cells when there is too much of it. Glutamate can cause extensive brain damage in the event of a stroke or concussion, and it is a preferred fuel for many different types of cancer cells. Researchers have discovered that oxaloacetate, an obscure molecule that plays a role in energy production, can remove excess glutamate from the bloodstream and has a protective effect against these hazards.
Oxaloacetate Increases Energy Production
Cells can produce energy in two different ways. The more primitive, less effective method is glycolysis. The more advanced and efficient method is oxidative phosphorylation. This occurs in the mitochondria, and it produces eight times more energy than glycolysis—while using the same amount of fuel.
Oxaloacetate is an important part of the metabolic cycle that allows oxidative phosphorylation to occur. Without this molecule, cells are forced to rely more heavily on glycolysis. This can lead to decreased production of energy and a decreased supply of blood sugar. In fact, studies indicate that a lack of oxaloacetate can cause energy production to fall by nearly 500%.
Oxaloacetate Starves Cancer
Cancerous cells rely on simple sugars and glutamate for their fuel supply, and this is especially true for brain tumors. Glutamate also allows cancer cells to grow and divide. When simple sugars and glutamate are abundant, cancer cells can produce more energy. This makes them more capable of spreading and more resistant to treatment.
Fortunately, studies have shown that the consumption of an oxaloacetate supplement can decrease blood glutamate levels by 40%.[6,7] This leads to a reduction of tumor size and invasiveness. Furthermore, patients who are given an oxaloacetate supplement experience an increased survival rate of 237%.
Oxaloacetate Benefits Can Reduce Brain Trauma
In addition to its use as a cancer fuel, glutamate can also trigger the excitation of neurons. This is especially dangerous to stroke victims, and over time, it causes damage to brain cells. However, as oxaloacetate removes glutamate from the bloodstream, glutamate in the brain and spinal fluid is forced to exit, as well.
This allows the brain to recover from strokes and traumatic injuries. Without glutamate, neurons can naturally restore their long-term potentiation, allowing the cells to transmit signals more quickly, which leads to faster neural communication and improved brain function.
How to Find An Oxaloacetate Supplement
Because it is a cellular metabolite, there are no effective oxaloacetate food sources. It must be refined and used as a supplement, and is available in capsule form. As a natural part of the body’s cellular processes, oxaloacetate is a safe supplement with no side effects. Read about another glutamate-fighting supplement, N-acetyl cysteine here.
Share Your Experience
Have you tried an oxaloacetate supplement? Share your experience with us by using the Comments section below.
—By Jeff Riddle
 The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 2nd edition.
 Biochemistry. 5th edition.
 J Neurochem. 1988 Mar;50(3):673-80.
 Invest New Drugs. 2012 Feb 2.
 Trends Biochem Sci. Aug 2012; 35(8): 427-433.
 Exp Neurol. 2007 Jan;203(1):213-20.
 Neurotherapeutics. July 2012; 9(3): 649-657.
 Invest New Drugs. 2012 Feb 2.
 Stroke. 1996 Jun;27(6):1060-5.
 Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 Feb 14;604(1-3):51-7.
Originally published in 2014, this post has been updated.