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Creatine: More Than Just A Sports Supplement

Creatine is a well known sports supplement for the musculoskeletal system, but before that and less known, it is a nutrient with a considerable list of general health benefits. Naturally produced by the body from the amino acids L-arginine, glycine and L-methionine (primarily in the kidneys and liver), creatine is metabolised into phosphocreatine (PCr), and is used by the brain, heart and skeletal muscles.

Evidence from isolated studies indicate that creatine has a neuroprotective benefit - a benefit not yet well known to the public - thus, researchers in Nebraska have conducted a review of the existing literature to examine its potential as a supplement to modulate diseases, as well as discuss potential mechanisms of its neuroprotective or immunomodulatory action.

Their results were published in International Immunopharmacology. They cited several studies that used animal models and found that oral creatine supplementation promoted "neuroprotective effects in various neurological conditions, including traumatic brain injury, Huntington's and Parkinson's disease." Among other neurological conditions analysed extensively, the review study examined the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of creatine, as well as its possible benefits to the immune system.

"It's important to observe the affordable price of creatine compared to most neuroprotective and immunomodulatory agents," the researchers wrote. "It is critical to carry out more human studies to examine the neuroprotective properties of creatine, designed so that the dose the participants receive is equivalent to that used in studies done on rodents."

Highlights of the review study

  • Creatine increases airway hyperresponsiveness in mice;
  • The production of soluble mediators, such as IL-4, IL-5 and IL-6, is altered by creatine supplementation;
  • Expression of ICAM-1, E-selectin and TLR is impacted by exposure to creatine;
  • An inadequate dose of creatine may explain the failure of a previous clinical trial in humans.

1. Riesberga LA, et al. Beyond muscles: The untapped potential of creatine. International Immunopharmacology, 2016. Doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2015.12.034