Tuesday March 9 6:23 PM ET
NEW YORK, Mar 09 (Reuters Health) -- Creatine, an over-the-counter amino acid supplement popular among athletes, may help to build muscle and increase muscle strength in patients with muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders, a study suggests.
People with these muscle disorders had a small increase in handgrip, ankle, and knee strength after taking creatine monohydrate daily for 10 to 12 days, according to the report in the March 10th issue of the journal Neurology. The study included 21 people with various types of neuromuscular disorders including muscular dystrophy, which cause muscle atrophy (wasting) and loss of strength.
"The treatment appears to be well tolerated in the short term," report Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky and Joan Martin, of McMaster University Medical Center in Ontario, Canada. But the researchers caution that more studies need to be conducted to determine if creatine continues to have a benefit over a longer period of time.
The subjects consumed either a placebo ("dummy'' pill) or 10 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for 5 days followed by 5 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for 5 to 7 days.
After an 11-day rest period, the subjects taking a placebo repeated the trial with creatine and those taking creatine were switched to placebo, with none of the people knowing which kind of pill they were taking.
The study showed that patients gained weight during the study. This increase affected the "lean body compartment," that is, muscle rather than fat. "This could be a great benefit for patients with neuromuscular diseases, where muscle atrophy is common," Tarnopolsky said in a statement.
There was a greater increase in handgrip and ankle strength in those taking creatine compared with placebo, the researchers report. For example, knee strength increased by 11% in those taking creatine, but only 2.3% in placebo users.
"It's possible that this added strength could be enough to help someone who's having trouble eating to bring the spoon up to their mouth," said Tarnopolsky in a statement issued by the American Academy of Neurology. "Or maybe for someone who is on the verge of going into a wheelchair, it may buy them an extra few weeks or months. Clearly, we need larger studies to address these potential benefits."
SOURCE: Neurology 1999;52:854-857.
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