What is Creatine?
Creatine is a protein that helps the body generate energy. And life and energy are basically one and the same. One hallmark of aging is a reduced ability to produce energy. ATP is the energy molecule the body uses. It replenishes ATP and in that sense is similar to a battery charger. Creatine is stored in the body in the form of creatine phosphate.
Most of the creatine in the body comes from the foods we eat and the best source is red meat with small amounts found in fruits and vegetables. Creatine storage can be increased up to 40% with creatine supplementation.
It has longed been used as a performance enhancing supplement by athletes. It is one supplement that has been shown repeatedly in scientific studies to enhance muscle strength and endurance. It is legal to use and not banned by sports.
It has also been studied as a treatment for neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s and muscular dystrophy showing some benefits. This protein improves cardiovascular function and shown to be helpful in heart failure patients.
Anti Aging Effects of Creatine
- Reverse sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass, strength, and function).
- Improve management of type 2 diabetes.
- Improve brain function.
- Reduce pain.
- Provide benefits to patients suffering from neuro-degenerative disease.
Creatine and Sarcopenia
Sarcopenia is usually defined as the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength, and function. But aging isn’t the only factor. Inactivity and declining hormone levels contribute to sarcopenia.
With age we loss selectively lose more fast-twitch muscle fibers or the type 2 muscle fibers. These fibers come into play during high intensity, short duration activities. These are the muscle fibers most important for carrying-out activities of daily living like gettting out of a chair or climbing a flight of stairs. We have all seen elderly individuals who cannot or struggle to get out of a seated position because of a lack of strength. That’s a manifestation of sarcopenia.
Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve muscle strength and endurance across all age groups. These improvements are greater when supplementation is coupled with a resistance exercise program.
It is also being studied as an add on treatment for patients suffering from heart failure. Keep in mind the heart is a muscle.
An added benefit of stronger muscles is stronger bones. Thus, creatine can help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Type 2 Diabetes
To a large degree type 2 diabetes is a muscle disease. Muscle is home for the greatest number of insulin receptors. More muscle mass means more insulin receptors and that improves diabetes control. Creatine coupled with exercise has been shown to improve glucose control by improving insulin sensitivity.
The brain consumes the highest percentage of oxygen and glucose of any organ-system in the body. Brain cells need energy. Creatine has been shown to improve brain function including memory especially in the elderly and those whose diets are devoid of meat. It is also beneficial for those suffering from brain injury by protecting against oxidative stress to the brain cells.
Creatine supplementation has been shown to benefit patients with chronic fibromyalgia. It improved pain, sleep, and overall quality of life.
Creatine supplementation and resistance exercise has been shown to improve muscle strength in Parkinson’s patients as well as blunt the degenerative seen in Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and muscular dystrophy (click here). This may in part be related to anti-inflammatory effects that creatine has at least following exercise.
Creatine is very safe. The most common side effects are muscle cramping and dehydration. This is more of a concern for the competitive athlete rather than the individual taking it for age related purposes. It is recommended that individuals with kidney disease not take creatine because it can stress the kidneys.
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