creatine (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Athletic series creatine, beta-GPA, Challenge Creatine Monohydrate, Cr, CreapureTM creatine monohydrate powder, Creatine Booster®, creatine citrate, creatine ethyl ester, Creatine Monohydrate Powder, creatine phosphate, Creatine Powder Drink Mix, Creatine Xtreme Punch®, Creatine Xtreme Lemonade®, creatinine, Creavescent®, cyclocreatine, Hardcore Formula Creatine Powder®, HPCE Pure Creatine Monohydrate®, methyl guanidine-acetic acid, methylguanidine-acetic acid, N-amidinosarcosine, N-(aminoiminomethyl)-N methyl glycine, Neoton®, Performance Enhancer Creatine Fuel®, PhosphagenTM, Phosphagen Pure Creatine Monohydrate Power Creatine®, Runners Advantage creatine serum, Total Creatine Transport®.
Creatine is naturally synthesized in the human body from amino acids primarily in the kidney and liver and transported in the blood for use by muscles. Approximately 95% of the body's total creatine content is located in skeletal muscle.
Creatine was discovered in the 1800s as an organic constituent of meat. In the 1970s, Soviet scientists reported that oral creatine supplements may improve athletic performance during brief, intense activities such as sprints. Creatine gained popularity in the 1990s as a "natural" way to enhance athletic performance and build lean body mass. It was reported that skeletal muscle total creatine content increases with oral creatine supplementation, although response is variable. Factors that may account for this variation are carbohydrate intake, physical activity, training status, and muscle fiber type. The finding that carbohydrates enhance muscle creatine uptake increased the market for creatine multi-ingredient sports drinks.
Use of creatine is particularly popular among adolescent athletes, who are reported to take doses that are not consistent with scientific evidence, and to frequently exceed recommended loading and maintenance doses.
Published reports suggest that approximately 25% of professional baseball players and up to 50% of professional football players consume creatine supplements. According to a survey of high school athletes, creatine use is common among football players, wrestlers, hockey players, gymnasts, and lacrosse players. In 1998, the creatine market in the United States was estimated at $200 million. In 2000, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) banned colleges from distributing creatine to their players.
Creatinine excreted in urine is derived from creatine stored in muscle.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Enhanced muscle mass / strength:
Several high-quality studies have shown an increase in muscle mass with the use of creatine. However, some weaker studies have reported mixed results. Overall, the available evidence suggests that creatine does increase lean body mass, strength, and total work. Future studies should take into account the effect of different individual fitness levels of study subjects.
Congestive heart failure (chronic):
Patients with chronic heart failure have low levels of creatine in their hearts. Several studies report that creatine supplements may improve heart muscle strength, body weight, and endurance in patients with heart failure. Studies comparing creatine with drugs used to treat heart failure are needed before a firm recommendation can be made. Heart failure should be treated by a qualified healthcare professional.
Adjunct in surgery (coronary heart disease):
Early studies suggest a potential benefit of creatine supplements in patients undergoing coronary artery surgery. Some evidence suggests that heart muscle may recover better and more rapidly after open-heart surgery if intravenous creatinine is used during the operation. Larger, well-designed studies are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Apnea (of prematurity):
Early studies of creatine in animals and humans have found mixed results in patients with a breathing disorder in infants, called apnea of prematurity. Well-designed studies are needed to better understand this relationship.
Early studies examining the effect of creatine in aging suggest that creatine may increase bone density when combined with resistance training. Further studies in which creatine alone is compared with placebo are needed.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:
It is unclear if creatine can help treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Study results are mixed. More clinical trials are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Early research suggests a potential beneficial of creatine supplements in depression. Creatine may have brought on a manic switch in patients with bipolar depression. Large, well-designed studies are needed.
Early studies suggest that creatine does not lower homocysteine levels in chronic hemodialysis patients. However, these patients were also using vitamin B12 and folate. Muscle cramps are also common complications of hemodialysis. Creatine may offer some benefit for this side effect. However, studies in which creatine alone is compared with placebo are needed.
Enhanced athletic performance and endurance:
It has been suggested that creatine may help improve athletic performance or endurance by increasing time to fatigue (possibly by shortening muscle recovery periods). It has been studied in cyclists, females, high-intensity endurance athletes, rowers, runners, sprinters (general), swimmers, and the elderly. However, the results of research evaluating this claim are mixed.
Some individuals are born with a genetic disorder in which there is a deficiency of the enzyme guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT). A lack of this enzyme causes severe developmental delays and abnormal movement disorders. The condition is diagnosed by a lack of creatine in the brain. However, there is limited evidence for the effect of creatine supplementation in this disorder. High-quality studies are needed.
Early studies did not find a benefit of creatine in the treatment of high cholesterol. More studies are needed before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
There is not enough scientific information to make a firm recommendation about the use of creatine in Huntington's disease. High-quality studies are needed to clarify this relationship.
Hyperornithinemia (high levels of ornithine in the blood):
Ornithine is normally formed in the liver. Some individuals are born with a genetic disorder that prevents them from appropriately breaking down ornithine, which causes blood levels to become too high. High amounts of ornithine may lead to blindness, muscle weakness, and reduced storage of creatine in muscles and the brain. Although there is only limited research in this area, early evidence suggests that long-term, daily creatine supplements may help replace missing creatine and slow vision loss.
Ischemic heart disease:
Early high-quality studies suggest a potential benefit of creatine in people with ischemic heart disease. More clinical trials are needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
In McArdle's disease, there is a deficiency of energy compounds stored in the muscles. This leads to muscle fatigue, exercise intolerance, and pain when exercising. Creatine has been proposed as a possible therapy for this condition. However, research is limited, and the results of existing studies are mixed. Therefore, it remains unclear if creatine offers any benefits to patients with McArdle's disease.
Early studies show that creatine may improve cognition in certain populations, such as vegetarians and the elderly. Further research is required before recommendations can be made.
Early study suggests that creatine supplementation does not improve work production in people with multiple sclerosis. However, large, well designed studies are required before a strong recommendation can be made.
Creatine loss is suspected to cause muscle weakness and breakdown in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Studies with creatine have found mixed results for this condition. Further research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Myocardial infarction (heart attack):
There is early evidence that intravenous creatine after a heart attack may be beneficial to heart muscle function and may prevent irregular heart rhythms. Further study is needed before a recommendation can be made in this area.
It has been reported that the use of creatine phosphate may have a favorable effect on mental deterioration in "cardio-cerebral syndrome" following heart attacks in the elderly. More research is needed.
Neuromuscular disorders (general, mitochondrial disorders):
Numerous studies suggest that creatine may help treat various neuromuscular diseases and may delay the onset of symptoms when used with standard treatment. However, creatine ingestion does not appear to have a significant effect on muscle creatine stores or high-intensity exercise capacity in individuals with multiple sclerosis and supplementation does not seem to help people with tetraplegia.
Although early studies were encouraging, recent research reports no beneficial effects on survival or disease progression. Additional studies are needed to provide clearer answers.
Spinal cord injury:
It is unclear if creatine is helpful in patients with spinal cord injuries. Results from early studies have been mixed. Further studies are required before a firm recommendation can be made.
Early studies suggest that creatine has no effect on strength or body composition in people undergoing soft tissue surgery. Creatine supplements are likely ineffective in this condition, and cannot be recommended without evidence from additional studies.