Creatine is the name of an amino-acid based compound that helps the body release large amount of energy, when it faces exertion. The body of a human being produces creatine naturally, half endogenously, from internal amino acids and the rest, from the food we consume. The compound is not found in plants and reaches the human body largely from fish and red meat. Inside the human body, creatine gets converted into phosphocreatine molecules that store energy in muscular tissues. This is the reason why, it is often used as a supplement by people who participate in sports or want to build a muscular body.
Apart from building muscles and providing energy and endurance, creatine has been associated with a number of other benefits too. These include promoting lean-muscle mass, reducing muscle wasting in post-surgical patients, reducing heart spasms, etc. Preliminary studies also suggest that creatine is useful in treating neuromuscular disorders and also reduces the levels of bad cholesterol. However, there has been no specific evidence regarding the same. Creatine has also alleged to be associated with some negative effects, which again have not been proved with any evidence.
Side Effects of Creatine and The Controversy
Doctors usually consider consumption of limited amount of creatine, over a short period of time, as harmless. It is the continuous intake of creatine, that too over a prolonged period of time, which is said to be associated with a number of dangers, like:
- Weight Gain (from more water in muscles & rise in lean-muscle tissue)
- Muscle Cramps
- Muscle Spasms
- Gastrointestinal Distress
There is still no consensus as to whether the above-mentioned side-effects, with the exception of weight gain and dehydration, do occur in an individual who consumes creatine. For example, a recent study published in the September 2004 issue of the International Journal of Sports Medicine showed that the side effects of creatine are rare. Researchers from Truman State University also reported that long-term use of creatine seems to be safe. However, the absence of any evidence does not mean that there are no dangers of creatine. It is always advisable to seek medical advice before taking creatine supplements.