Creatine Health Benefits
Creatine health benefits include performance enhancement, but its negatives include an increased risk of BPH, prostate cancer, and a rise in DHT levels. The body converts creatine, a naturally occurring amino acid, into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and stores it in the muscles, where it can be accessed for energy
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is produced in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Food sources include meat and fish. As a supplement, creatine health benefits are sought after often by people who engage in high-intensity, short-term exercise, such as weight lifting or sprinting. That’s because the body transforms phosphocreatine into ATP, a major energy source.
Some studies have reported that creatine supplements can increase lean muscle mass and improve athletic performance, but other research has not supported these claims. (Fukuda 2010; Hickner 2010) Individuals who have naturally high levels of creatine stored in their muscles do not experience creatine health benefits such as an increase in energy if they take extra creatine. (University of Maryland) Men who are concerned about their prostate health, however, should be aware of the hazards of taking creatine supplements.
For example, creatine promotes production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that is associated with an increased risk of BPH and prostate cancer. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 20 college-aged rugby players were divided into two groups. One group took either 25 g/day of creatine plus 25 g/day of glucose for seven days followed by 14 days of 5 g/day of creatine plus 25 g/day of glucose; the other group took placebo (50 g/day of glucose) for seven days followed by 30 g/day of glucose for 14 days.
In the men who took creatine, testosterone levels did not change throughout the 21 days of the study. However, DHT levels increased by 56 percent after 7 days of creatine supplementation and remained 40 percent above baseline after 14 days at the lower dose. (van der Merwe 2009)
Although there are some creatine health benefits, men should be aware of the potential dangers. In addition to the possibility of an increase in DHT levels, side effects associated with the use of creatine supplements include weight gain, muscle cramps, muscle strains, stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction, and kidney damage. The risk of damage increases if creatine is taken along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, diuretics, cimetidine, or probenicid. (University of Maryland) Creatine should never be taken unless under the care of a knowledgeable physician.
Fukuda DH et al. The effects of creatine loading and gender on anaerobic running capacity. J Strength Cond Res 2010 Jul; 24(7): 1826-33
Hickner RC et al. Effect of 28 days of creatine ingestion on muscle metabolism and performance of a simulated cycling road race. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010 Jul 7; 7:26
University of Maryland: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/creatine-000297.htm
Van der Merwe J et al. Three weeks of creatine monohydrate supplementation affects dihydrotestosterone to testosterone ratio in college-aged rugby players. Clin J Sport Med 2009 Sep; 19(5): 399-404