The Neurological Benefits of Creatine

Creatine Reduces Neurological Disease

 Creatine is one of the most researched and widely used supplements to enhance muscle building and strength.  Every fitness website or magazine is abounding with infinite articles and ads on how to be bigger and better with creatine supplementation.   What fails to be discussed in the same proportion are the possible neurological health benefits of creatine.  Preliminary trials have successfully linked creatine to not only improving body composition but also helping many neurological diseases. The studies are still ongoing and research for more conclusive information on the benefits of using creatine is required.  It appears however, creatine could be doing more than providing a muscular physique.  Before diving into the neurological discoveries, let’s break down what creatine is and how it functions in the body.  

What is Creatine?

Creatine Shown to Help Neurological Disease. Todor Tsvetkov/Getty Images

 Creatine is an organic nitrogenous acid produced in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas with primary concentration in muscle tissue.  It is responsible for supplying energy to cells within the body and keeping our cellular functions in balance.   Although creatine is naturally made within the body, it can also be supplied through certain foods and supplements.  Because of creatine’s ability to supply energy where it is demanded, it has become the favored supplement for athletes to enhance their athletic performance and increase muscle size.  Going beyond the physical, the “potential therapeutic value for targeting cellular energy impairment in neurodegenerative diseases” is also being addressed through creatine supplementation research.

Creatine and Brain Power

Brain and Nerve Cells
The Brain and Nerve Cells: Neural Network that Control the Body. Science Photo Library - PASIEKA Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

 According to a 2008 abstract written by Peter J. Adhihetty and M. Flint Beal, “Originally, exogenous creatine supplementation was widely used only as an ergogenic aid to increase the phosphocreatine pool within muscle to bolster athletic performance. However, the potential therapeutic value of creatine supplementation has recently been investigated with respect to various neurodegenerative disorders that have been associated with bioenergetic deficits as playing a role in disease etiology and/or progression which include; Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s disease.” This may seem like a mouthful but what science is trying to do is find answers to slow the progression of disease caused by energy deficits in the body.  Creatine just so happens to be a very important molecule responsible for supplying energy and works together with another high energy molecule, adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  Brain power is essential for overall functioning of the body and efforts to apply “therapeutic strategies that buffer intracellular energy levels” are greatly needed to improve the neurodegenerative process.  

Creatine and Neurological Disease

Human Brain with Parkinson's Disease
Coronal view of a human brain in Parkinsons disease. Sherbrooke Connectivity Imaging Lab (SCIL) Cultura/Getty Images

 There may be hope for those suffering with neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s.  Creatine is an important part of maintaining cellular energy balance and its’ administration during research studies has shown promising results in slowing the progression of some neurological disease.   The positive findings support further research and the strong possibility for creatine to be utilized as a neurotherapeutic strategy.    In a 2003 double-blind study by C. Rae and others: Oral creatine improves brain performance, it is stated “This study showed that increasing creatine intake by oral supplementation resulted in improved brain function, similar to effects shown previously in muscle and heartGreat news, but 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 and futile in late stages due to creatine deposits found in the brain.  Parkinson’s disease (PD) Phase II clinical trials revealed more promise and “illustrates the potential of creatine supplementation to slow the clinical progression of PD and provide long-term benefits for people who are currently afflicted with PD.” Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) unfortunately and similarly to AD revealed “current evidence suggests that creatine supplementation is not efficacious in the treatment of AD and ALS.”   Huntington’s disease (HD) showed great potential with research results and the “data provides strong support for creatine to be a particularly effective neuroprotective agent in HD which may ultimately improve and/or extend the quality of life for individuals afflicted with HD.”


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

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Proceedings of Biological Sciences, Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial, Caroline Rae, Alison L Digney, Sally R McEwan, and Timothy C Bates, 10/22/03

The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology,, 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,, A clinical trial of creatine in ALS, J. M. Shefner, MD et al., 11/9/04

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

The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology,, Creatine in Huntington disease is safe, tolerable, bioavailable in brain and reduces serum 8OH2′dG, S. M. Hersch, MD et al., 1/24/06

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

Neuromolecular Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Creatine and Its Potential Therapeutic Value for Targeting Cellular Energy Impairment in Neurodegenerative Diseases, Peter J. Adhihetty and M. Flint Beal, 11/13/08

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