Health implications of creatine: can oral creatine supplementation protect against neurological and atherosclerotic disease?
Wyss M, Schulze A.
Roche Vitamins AG,
Biotechnology Department (VFB),
CH-4070 Basel, Switzerland.
ABSTRACTMajor achievements made over the last several years have highlighted the important roles of creatine and the creatine kinase reaction in health and disease. Inborn errors of metabolism have been identified in the three main steps involved in creatine metabolism: arginine:glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT), S-adenosyl-L-methionine:N-guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT), and the creatine transporter. All these diseases are characterized by a lack of creatine and phosphorylcreatine in the brain, and by (severe) mental retardation. Similarly, knockout mice lacking the brain cytosolic and mitochondrial isoenzymes of creatine kinase displayed a slightly increased creatine concentration, but no phosphorylcreatine in the brain. These mice revealed decreased weight gain and reduced life expectancy, disturbed fat metabolism, behavioral abnormalities and impaired learning capacity.Oral creatine supplementation improved the clinical symptoms in both AGAT and GAMT deficiency, but not in creatine transporter deficiency. In addition, creatine supplementation displayed neuroprotective effects in several animal models of neurological disease, such as Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. All these findings pinpoint to a close correlation between the functional capacity of the creatine kinase/phosphorylcreatine/creatine system and proper brain function. They also offer a starting-point for novel means of delaying neurodegenerative disease, and/or for strengthening memory function and intellectual capabilities.Finally, creatine biosynthesis has been postulated as a major effector of homocysteine concentration in the plasma, which has been identified as an independent graded risk factor for atherosclerotic disease. By decreasing homocysteine production, oral creatine supplementation may, thus, also lower the risk for developing, e.g., coronary heart disease or cerebrovascular disease.Although compelling, these results require further confirmation in clinical studies in humans, together with a thorough evaluation of the safety of oral creatine supplementation.Creatine
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