The Neurological Benefits of Creatine

Help for Neurological Disease

Creatine is one of the most researched and widely used supplements to enhance muscle growth and strength. It's popular among athletes, bodybuilders and those wanting to improve athletic performance. Creatine is indicated to be one of the best evidence-based approved supplements in sports nutrition. Although shown to improve muscle development, creatine is also suggested to be helpful for those suffering from neurological disease.

Chronic research continues to support creatine playing a beneficial role in the central nervous system(CNS). It appears creatine supplementation may reduce the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Huntington’s.

What is Creatine?

She'll get him fighting fit
Creatine Improves Neurological Motor Function. Cecilie_Arcurs / Getty Images

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance made from amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Creatine is produced in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas and concentrated primarily in muscle tissue. Smaller amounts are distributed via our blood to the brain and other tissues.

Creatine is also found in animal protein sources like meat and fish in addition to being produced in the body. 

 

How Does it Work in Our Body

Creatine is responsible for supplying energy to cells within the body and keeping our cellular functions in balance. It occurs naturally and is also supplied through consuming certain foods and supplements.

When creatine enters or is produced by the body, it goes through a chemical process and forms creatine phosphate. This stored molecule provides instant energy to cells that have been depleted during intense physical or neuronal effort.

Creatine phosphate is also known as phosphocreatine (PCr). Creatine improves exercise performance by increasing stored PCr or ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate). ATP is another energy source utilized during quick bursts of energy like sprinting or weight lifting.  

The storage form of creatine (phosphocreatine) is the primary energy source called upon to fuel short bursts of high-intensity exercise. Athletes supplement with creatine because of its ability to supply energy and increase muscle size. 

Creatine has become more than an athletic performance enhancer. Research has shown creatine to have significant value in treating neurodegenerative disease. It's therapeutic ability to target cellular energy impairment may reduce the symptoms of neurological disorders in patients. 

Creatine and Neurological Research

According to research published in the Journal of Neuromolecular Medicine, creatine is indicated to be an effective treatment for Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease. It appears creatine improves cellular energy deficits in brain tissue reducing the symptoms of these neurodegenerative disorders.   

Research on long-term creatine supplementation examining potential side effects was also conducted. Sixty aged patients were monitored for a 2-year period and received either 4g/d of creatine or placebo. The focus was mainly to ensure proper renal function while supplementing with creatine for neurological disease. Creatine was indicated to be well tolerated in aged patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. Kidney or renal function remained within normal limits and the only adverse side effect appeared to be occasional stomach upset. 

Other studies show creatine supplementation to improve mental concentration and memory of healthy individuals and early stage Alzheimer’s Disease patients.  

Creatine research was conducted on patients suffering from Lou Gehring Disease. This neurological disorder degenerates the neurons of the central nervous system. Creatine was indicated to provide a neuroprotective effect.

Overall, creatine supplementation is shown to provide neurological protection of the cells. Chronic studies indicate creatine to be an effective neuroprotective agent. Patients taking creatine have experienced improved motor function and better quality of life.

Hope for Neurological Disease

There may be hope for those suffering from neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s

Creatine appears to be playing an important role in maintaining cellular energy balance. Research has shown promising results in slowing the progression of some neurological disease.  

There appears to be a strong indication for creatine supplementation as a therapeutic method to treat neurological disease. The positive findings support further research.

Each neurological disease presents with differing energy deficits that may or may not benefit from creatine supplementation. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) for example was found to show improvement with creatine supplementation only in the early stages. Later stage AD treatment wasn't as effective due to creatine deposits found in the brain.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) clinical trials revealed potential with creatine supplementation to slow the progression of PD. Creatine appears to have long-term benefits for people who are currently afflicted with PD.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) unfortunately and similarly to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) didn't respond as effectively to creatine supplementation. 

Creatine supplementation showed great potential in the treatment of Huntington’s disease (HD). Research indicates strong evidence in favor of creatine as an effective neuroprotective agent for this disease. Creatine may ultimately improve and/or extend the quality of life for individuals suffering from HD. 

Sources:

Andreas Bender et al., Long-term creatine supplementation is safe in aged patients with Parkinson disease, Nutrition Research, 2008

Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, The Creatine Kinase/Creatine Connection to Alzheimer's Disease: CK Inactivation, APP-CK Complexes, and Focal Creatine Deposits, Tanja S. Bürklen et al., 2006

The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, neurology.org, PRECREST: A phase II prevention and biomarker trial of creatine in at-risk Huntington disease, Herminia D. Rosas, MD et al., 3/11/14

The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, neurology.org, A randomized, double-blind, futility clinical trial of creatine and minocycline in early Parkinson disease, Dr. Bernard Ravina, 3/14/06

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Subcellular Biochemistry, The neuroprotective role of creatine, Klein AM, Ferrante RJ, 2007

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