Creatine is most often used as a supplement to increase strength and body mass. Some data suggest it may also help protect nerve cells. Creatine is a potentially useful compound in the treatment of MS, as nerve damage and weakness are seen in this disease.
Within the human body, creatine is produced by the pancreas, liver, and kidneys. Muscle cells and other cells use this compound for generating energy. Meat and fish contain creatine, but it is also sold commercially as a supplement.
The clinical data concerning the therapeutic effectiveness of creatine is limited. Healthy people who take creatine supplements may experience improved performance in short, strenuous exercises. In one small study of people with MS, creatine did not appear to have this effect. However, since the study only involved 16 people, the results are not definitive. Limited work in muscular dystrophy has suggests that creatine may decrease muscle fatigue, improve strength, and increase exercise ability in this condition.
In appropriate doses, creatine is usually well tolerated. However, in rare cases, especially those involving preexisting kidney disease, creatine use may result in kidney failure. More common side effects include muscle cramping, diarrhea, stomach pain, weight gain, nausea, and dehydration.
References and Additional Reading
Bowling AC. Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2007.
Bowling AC, Stewart TS. Dietary Supplements and Multiple Sclerosis: A Health Professional’s Guide. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2004.
Jellin JM, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2009.
Ulbricht CE, Basch EM, eds. Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Reference: Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews. St. Louis: Elsevier-Mosby, 2005.