Food Supplement Popular with Athletes
May Benefit Patients with Neuromuscular Disease
ST. PAUL, MN - Creatine, a food supplement popular among athletes, may improve strength among people with neuromuscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy, according to a study published in the March 10 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Patients taking creatine supplements had an average 10 to 15 percent improvement in their ability to perform high-intensity exercises, said study author Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD, of McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton, Ontario.
"Creatine is inexpensive, it's non-toxic and it has few side effects," he said. "The improvements are as encouraging as many of the treatments that people are using for these diseases."
Creatine is a compound containing amino acid that is produced in the body and obtained from food such as meat.
The study involved 81 people with neuromuscular diseases that cause muscle weakness and atrophy. The participants' hand, foot and leg strength was tested at the beginning of the study. Then they were given 10 grams of creatine per day for five days, then five grams per day for five days. After the 10 days, their strength was tested again.
"Their strength went up on every measurement," Tarnopolsky said.Tarnopolsky said long-term studies are needed to determine how creatine supplements could help neuromuscular patients improve their daily lives. "It's possible that this added strength could be enough to help someone who's having trouble eating to bring the spoon up to their mouth," he said. "Or maybe for someone who's on the verge of going into a wheelchair, it may buy them an extra few weeks or months. Clearly, we need larger studies to address these potential benefits."
Participants also gained weight during the study. Studies with healthy people taking creatine have shown that weight gains come from muscle, not fat. "This could be a great benefit for patients with neuromuscular diseases, where muscle atrophy is common," Tarnopolsky said.Creatine-phosphate stores chemical energy in muscles and is broken down in the first stage of exercise. That allows the muscles to rebuild their supplies of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the main energy source for short-term, high-intensity exercise."Basically, creatine gives you a bridge between one energy source and another," Tarnopolsky said. "It allows for higher energy output for a longer period of time."
The natural levels of creatine in the muscle are low for people with neuromuscular diseases. They are also low in the elderly. "The levels can be as low as for people with muscular dystrophy," he said. "This area could have great potential for the future."Creatine may have other potential uses. Tarnopolsky said some studies have shown that creatine may reduce the oxidative stress that leads to damage to neurons in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's. "If the use of creatine could slow the process of those diseases, that would be outstanding," he said. "More research is needed in this area."
Improving care for patients with neurological disorders is the goal of the American