Creatine: Therapeutic use

Last modified: Thursday, 26. March 2009 - 5:06 am

Children with guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT) deficiency require long-term treatment with creatine supplementation. GAMT deficiency is a rare inborn error of metabolism caused by an insufficient amount of stored creatine along with an excessive accumulation of guanidinoacetate (GAA) in the brain. GAA is one of the building blocks of creatine formed through a chemical reaction of the amino acid arginine. GAMT deficiency, which is typically diagnosed in infancy, causes seizures and developmental delays that can be at least partially reversed with high doses of supplemental creatine.
Creatine has also been shown to be of some benefit in neurological and musculoskeletal diseases and conditions that involve muscle wasting or deterioration of muscle function, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), myasthenia gravis, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and McArdle’s disease.
Several studies have demonstrated that creatine may improve muscle function and increase exercise capacity in older adults experiencing age-related strength and exercise capacity loss. As of early 2002, only a handful of clinical studies had explored this phenomenon, and further research is needed to confirm and explain this finding. It should be noted, however, that there is some research that suggests creatine may not be as effective in older users as it is in younger individuals.
Individuals who face extended bedrest or immobilization in order to recover from surgery may also benefit from creatine supplementation. One study, which looked at knee surgery patients in rehabilitation, found that subjects who received creatine intravenously during their recovery gained leg strength faster than those who did not. Further research published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in 2002 found that creatine supplementation improved upper body exercise capacity in patients with cervical spinal cord injuries.
Creatine may also be a promising treatment for other types of physical rehabilitation. Research conducted at Catholic University Leuven (Belgium) looked at the role of creatine in the recovery of university students who had been immobilized in full leg casts for two weeks. The students who received creatine monohydrate supplements had greater muscle function and mass than the students who received a placebo at both three weeks and 10 weeks of physical rehabilitation.
New research on the antioxidative properties of creatine shows that the supplement may have even therapeutic properties beyond the treatment of musculoskeletal disease and injury. A 2000 study in Annals of Neurology reported that creatine had a protective effect against traumatic brain injury (TBI) in animal studies, reducing brain damage in mice and rats by up to 50%.
In other animal research, clinical studies have demonstrated that creatine inhibits the growth of solid tumors in rats. No data on the effects of creatine supplementation on cancer in humans had been published as of early 2002.
Finally, creatine supplements may be useful in the treatment of heart problems. Creatine has improved exercise capacity in patients suffering from congestive heart failure, and lowered blood cholesterol in animal studies. Limited study of creatine’s effect on blood cholesterol levels in healthy humans has had mixed results, with one study reporting a positive impact and another reporting no effect at all. Further research is needed to determine if creatine is beneficial in improving blood cholesterol and preventing atherosclerosis.

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