For those that have heard of the compound creatine the first thing that comes to mind is its use as an anabolic agent synonymous with athletes bodybuilding muscle growth and associated athletic performance enhancement. While to a greater degree that is where creatine made its claim to fame research has found that it is much more than that.
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is synthesized in the human body and for that matter in all vertebrates in the liver and kidneys from the amino acids arginine methionine and glycine. It is then transported to areas of the body where energy requirements are very high. These would be the skeletal muscles where approximately 95% of the body’s stores of creatine are found and secondarily the brain. Biochemically and physiologically creatine’s main function is its participation in the synthesis of ATP the primary compound involved in cellular energy production metabolism and respiration. Meat and fish are the primary sources of creatine so it naturally stands to reason that those who are vegetarian may be deficient in this extremely important compound and may require supplementation. Additionally even those athletes and bodybuilders that consume animal protein may have increased energy demands which would require additional creatine ingestion.
Neurological and brain health
Of particular interest are the properties and applications supplemental creatine can fulfill that go beyond its better known anabolic and exercise enhancing qualities. For instance past research has shown that errors in creatine metabolism may be related to higher incidences of developing depression and other neuro-psychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions. It is possible that creatine supplementation can be of particular value in such a population of patients. The connection between creatine and its role in both neurological and brain health may be very well tied to its importance in cellular energy production and subsequent mitochondrial health.
In view of this fact that creatine may show utility in psychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions it may not be a stretch that the compound may also be useful in applications of brain health and cognition as well as depression anxiety schizophrenia and various other severe mental and emotional conditions.
For those who consume either a high fat or high carbohydrate diet the risk of developing associated liver dysfunction increases dramatically. In the obese and diabetic patient the prospects of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or simply accumulation of fat in the liver is always a possibility. Creatine use in animals fed a high fat diet demonstrated positive effects as the compound was able to prevent the condition from developing suggesting a therapeutic role in these types of patients.
Potential help with substance abuse
Is it possible that creatine can help those individuals with substance abuse issues? Studies have shown this population to be consistently deficient in creatine and thus its therapeutic use shows effects similar to those demonstrated by traditional antidepressant drugs.
Benefits for the elderly
In the elderly population sarcopenia (age-related muscle wasting) is constantly a risk for example from immobility due to long term hospitalization. Creatine has been shown to help improve this condition in spite of a lack of physical stimulation or exercise.
Together these benefits can yield profound improvements in various aspects of health and quality of life when viewed in the context of improving cognition physical strength endurance and related fatigue. With its positive benefits in mitochondrial health and energy production it appears that creatine can be a logical and important choice for a variety of patients and conditions or simply as a beneficial nutrient.