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Donna Mincieli, PTI, RD Headshot

Creatine for Anti-Aging?

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I learned a new word today: gerascophobia. Have you ever heard of it? Apparently it means "fear of growing old."

I never knew that being fearful of growing old had its own name. I came across gerascophobia while reading Arianna Huffington's book On Becoming Fearless. When I saw it, I immediately stopped reading and thoughtfully leaned back in my chair. It occurred to me in that moment that I was gerascophobic! I believe I always have been. (And now that my next birthday will be 50 my "condition" is worsening -- as you can imagine.)

I'm not afraid of growing old in itself -- it sure beats the alternative. But I've always feared the disease and frailty that most often accompanies aging. I now realize that my early onset of gerascophobic is what carved my whole adult life. I went to school for nutrition, became a dietitian/nutritionist, personal trainer, fitness facility owner and founder of a protein bar company because I somehow realized at an young age that we can all create our own Fountain of Youth by choosing to eat right and exercise!

Many of the lifestyle-related diseases and conditions that we most often associate with aging -- heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, frailty, certain cancers, etc. -- have less to do with aging and more to do with poor lifestyle choices: not eating a healthy whole-food diet and being sedentary. It's just that these poor lifestyle choices catch up with us by the time we hit mid-age and older, thus the association between old age and disease.

So just imagine how excited I was upon learning that one of the sports supplements I have been taking myself and recommending to my fitness and athletic clients for the last 15 years can also help prevent many of the diseases and conditions I mentioned above -- and more. And because I have been such a believer in the athletic benefits of this supplement, I have been using it as an ingredient in the High Protein Performance Bars I manufacture for MadReps Nutrition.

I am talking about creatine. Creatine has been widely used as a sports and exercise supplement since 1992. Numerous studies over 20 years have shown that it is one of the few sports supplements that actually works and is completely safe for healthy adults!

Let me tell you a little bit about creatine and how it has traditionally been used before I get into its health and anti-aging benefits.

Creatine is a protein that supplies energy to all of the cells in the body, primarily muscle cells. Some is manufactured by several amino acids in the liver and kidneys then stored in our muscles, but the majority of our stored muscular creatine comes from food... primarily red meat. Very little is found in other meats relative to red meat, and only a miniscule amount is found in some fruits and vegetables.

Supplementing with creatine can increase muscular (creatine) storage by up to 40 percent%, therefore giving muscles far more energy than diet can alone! This is why athletes and fitness enthusiasts have been using it as a supplement for the last 20 years.

When combined with exercise training, creatine can:

-- rapidly increase strength, muscle size and power

-- increase metabolism

-- increase speed endurance for runners and cyclists through strength and power gains derived during sprint training

-- improve performance during any sport that involves fast, short, explosive movements

But here's what I'm most excited about. A substantial body of research has found that creatine has a wide variety of anti-aging uses as well as therapeutic applications.

Creatine:

1. Has been shown to preserve muscle and strength in older adults, which is slowly lost during the aging process due to declining drops in testosterone and growth hormone. Preserving muscle will increase functionality and help to avoid frailty. This result is even more dramatic when combined with a strength training program. (1)

2. Supplementation may lower the risk of developing heart disease by lowering triglycerides. (2)

3. Has been shown to be helpful for people with congestive heart failure by increasing muscle mass weight, muscle strength, physical performance and endurance. (3)

4. Can help to avoid osteoporosis by preserving muscle. (4) (13)

5. Improves glucose management in Type 2 diabetes. This is important in the prevention of all of the diseases associated with Type 2 diabetes: eye and kidney disease, heart disease, etc. (6) (13)

6. Supplementation has been found to significantly increase brain capacity and intelligence! Especially among people who eat little or no red meat and the elderly. (8)

7. May have therapeutic value for treating mental illness and other brain disorders. (5) (7)

8. Supplementation can help to relieve some of the muscular pain, strength decreases and stiffness associated with fibromyalgia. (10) (11)

9. Shows promise of therapeutic benefits for people with Parkinson's disease, Huntington's Disease, Alzheimers, Mcardles disease and Muscular Dystrophy. (12) (13)

That's a pretty impressive list!

So if you are like me and want to grow old with a high quality of life, you may want to consider supplemental creatine.

There are several different forms of creatine on the market. The recommended dosing below is for Creatine Monohydrate powder only.

-- 1-2 grams daily for healthy adults. A healthy adult vegan can consume as much as 5 grams daily.

If you are suffering from any of the disease states listed above, check with your doctor first for proper dosing, which can be as high as 5-10 grams. Creatine is not recommended for children under the age of 18 or for anyone with kidney or liver disease.

References:

1. Gotshalk LA, Kraemer WJ, Mendonca MA, Vingren JL, Kenny AM, Spiering BA, Hatfield DL, Fragala MS, Volek JS. Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older women.Eur J Appl Physiol 2007.

2. Cornelissen VA, Defoor JG, Stevens A, Schepers D, Hespel P, Decramer M, Mortelmans L, Dobbels F, Vanhaecke J, Fagard RH, Vanhees L. Effect of creatine supplementation as a potential adjuvant therapy to exercise training in cardiac patients: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2010 Nov;24(11):988-99.

3. Kuethe F, Krack A, Richartz BM, Figulla HR. Creatine supplementation improves muscle strength in patients with congestive heart failure. Pharmazie. 2006 Mar;61(3):218-22.

4. Chilibeck PD, Chrusch MJ, Chad KE, Shawn Davison K, Burke DG. Creatine monohydrate and resistance training increase bone mineral content and density in older men. J Nutr Health Aging. 2005;9(5):352-3.

5. Allen PJ. Creatine metabolism and psychiatric disorders: Does creatine supplementation have therapeutic value? Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2012 May;36(5):1442-62. Epub 2012 Mar 24.

6. Gualano B, Lancha AH Junior, et al. Creatine in Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial, Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2010 Sep 24

7. Lyoo IK, Kong SW, Sung SM, Hirashima F, Parow A, Hennen J, Cohen BM, Renshaw PF. Multinuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of high-energy phosphate metabolites in human brain following oral supplementation of creatine-monohydrate.Psychiatry Res 2003, 123(2):87-100.

8. McMorris T, Mielcarz G, Harris RC, Swain JP, Howard A. Creatine supplementation and cognitive performance in elderly individuals.Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 2007, 14(5):517-528.

9. Gualano B, Artioli GG, Poortmans JR, Lancha Junior AH. Exploring the therapeutic role of creatine supplementation. Amino Acids. 2010, Jan;38(1):31-44. Epub 2009 Mar 1.

10. Leader A, Amital D, Rubinow A, Amital H. An open-label study adding creatine monohydrate to ongoing medical regimens in patients with the fibromyalgia syndrome. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Sep;1173:829-36.

11. Amital D, Vishne T, Rubinow A, Levine J. Observed effects of creatine monohydrate in a patient with depression and fibromyalgia. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Oct;163(10):1840-1.

12. Hass CJ, Collins MA, Juncos JL. Resistance training with creatine monohydrate improves upper-body strength in patients with Parkinson disease: a randomized trial. Neurorehabil Neural Repair 2007, 21(2):107-115.

13. Gualano B, Artioli GG, Poortmans JR, Lancha Junior AH. Exploring the therapeutic role of creatine supplementation. Amino Acids. 2010, Jan;38(1):31-44. Epub 2009 Mar 1.

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