Medical Q&As

Creatine - is it safe?

My son asked me if I knew anything about creatine. Some of his sporty friends are taking it. I have been unable to find much unbiased information on this subject because most of the websites I have visited seem to be vehicles for selling it. Can you tell me anything about it?

Creatine is a compound found in human muscle and its use in sport is based on the idea that extra creatine will help the muscles to work harder over longer periods of time. Research data exists to demonstrate that creatine enables the sportsman to train with greater intensity. The fact that creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the body does not mean that we can automatically assume that it is safe. Creatine use in sport is relatively recent and I am not aware of any long-term studies to demonstrate that it is safe. I have reservations about its use and question its effects on adolescents whose muscles and bones are still growing. On the other hand there are few reports of serious adverse effects in the short term. It has been reported to cause abdominal and muscle cramps and nausea. Dehydration can be a problem when taking creatine therefore fluid intake must be increased to maintain normal urine output and prevent dehydration. In my opinion the jury is still out on creatine and my abiding concern is that adolescents taking creatine are taking a gamble by staking unknown future problems against short-term gain.