Although widely used as a nutritional supplement for fitness, creatine also provides a number of other health benefits. Research shows that it has a neuroprotective ability and has the potential to fight against several neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s disease.
The possible link between creatine and Parkinson’s disease has been investigated recently. Many animal studies suggest that its consumption may cause a therapeutic effect against Parkinson’s disease.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is one of the most popular sports nutrition supplements available today. It is an organic compound, made up of amino acids (namely glycine, arginine, and methionine), found naturally in foods like fish and meat. It can also be produced within the body.
Creatine is normally used to increase muscle mass and improve strength and exercise performance. However, its beneficial effect is not limited to fitness only. Some research suggests that its consumption may also cause beneficial effects against many disease conditions like ALS, stroke, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease (1 2 3 4 5).
Creatine and Parkinson’s disease – is there a connection?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that develops when the dopamine-producing cells of the brain are lost. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls movement. When dopamine production ceased in the brain, the body show problems like shaking hands, slow movement, stiffness, and balance problem – all these are classical signs of Parkinson’s disease.
While the exact cause of the disease is still unknown, research shows that mitochondrial dysfunction is the key event in disease development (6). Mitochondria are the important organelles in the cell that generate energy in the form of ATP. Because of this function, mitochondria are also called the powerhouses of the cell.
Creatine helps mitochondria to keep them in a healthy state. It protects mitochondria from the insult of oxidative stress, which is linked to Parkinson’s disease (7). Creatine has been shown to boost the activities of proteins that are crucial for mitochondrial quality and function (8).
Given that mitochondrial dysfunction is the key event in Parkinson’s disease and that creatine is indispensable for mitochondrial health, it is plausible to think that there is a link between Parkinsons’s disease and creatine. In fact, many researchers think that creatine may have the potential to modify the disease condition.
Can creatine provide protection against Parkinson’s disease?
Animal studies have shown that creatine has a neuroprotective ability and its consumption can protect the brain from developing Parkinson’s disease. A study performed on mice showed that creatine supplementation protects the brain from MPTP-mediated dopamine depletion. MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine) is a neurotoxic chemical that when consumed cause the death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain and produces Parkinson’s like symptoms in mice (9).
Such a neuroprotective effect of creatine has also been shown in another study. The study found that creatine in combination with Coenzyme Q10 not only restored dopamine level in the brain after MPTP treatment but also protect the brain from other Parkinson’s disease pathogenic events like the accumulation of harmful proteins, lipid peroxidation and DNA oxidative damage (10).
How about studies in human?
Creatine supplementation has also been used in clinical trials performed in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, the results were not promising in most cases.
In a follow-up study, creatine potential therapeutic effect was assessed in 1741 participants from 45 investigative sites in the USA and Canada. The participants were treated daily with 10 g creatine or placebo. Although the study was originally designed for a long term, after a planned interim analysis of 955 participants for 5 years, the investigators terminated the study trial. They reasoned that creatine consumption, when compared to placebo, for 5 years didn’t have any beneficial effects in patients (11).
One meta-analysis study published in 2017 showed that creatine has no therapeutic effects against Parkinson’s disease. In this study, results from five randomized controlled trials, conducted on 1339 participants, were selected. The study concluded that creatine consumption showed no improvement in patients quality of life and motor functions (12).
Clinical trials performed in Parkinson’s disease patients showed that creatine is well tolerated and is not associated with any adverse effects. Its excessive consumption is usually linked to weight gain and abnormality in kidney function. However, these deteriorations were not observed in Parkinson’s disease patients.
There is some indication about the protective role of creatine against Parkinson’s disease in animal studies. But so far, there is no clear evidence that shows creatine has the potential to treat the disease symptoms in patients.
Creatine supplement can improve upper body strength in patients. However, supplementation shouldn’t be considered an alternative therapy. If you have Parkinson’s disease and plan to use a creatine supplement, it is better to ask your doctor first.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.