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Creatine worsens asthma

If you’re asthmatic, it could be that creatine makes your condition worse. Researchers came to this conclusion after doing experiments at the University of Sao Paulo. They induced asthma in mice, then gave them creatine and observed that the bodybuilding supplement not only worsened the mice’s asthma attacks, but also increased the impact of the illness on their lungs.


The Brazilians gave the mice asthma by injecting a large quantity of the protein ovalbumin directly into their gut a couple of times. This made the mice allergic to ovalbumin, and then the researchers could induce asthma attacks by spraying ovalbumin powder. This was done a couple of times during the experiment, which lasted thirty days.

Some of the mice were also given creatine. The researchers gave the mice 0.5 g creatine per kg bodyweight five times a week.

The figure below shows what happened when the mice were exposed to provocholine, a substance that constricts your airways if you are asthmatic. The graph shows the difficulty four groups of lab animals had with breathing as they were given an increasing dose of provocholine.

Mice who weren’t allergic also developed breathing problems when given the asthma inducer. The supplement worsened the symptoms in the mice that were asthmatic.

When the researchers exposed mice to ovalbumin via their airways, they noticed that more immune cells appeared in the airways. During asthma attacks the immune cells mistakenly attack lung cells, because allergic reactions wreak havoc with the immune system. The immune cells start to listen too much to inflammatory proteins like interleukine-5. The graph below shows how taking creatine increases the number of immune cells in the lungs that listen to interleukine-5 during an asthma attack.

In the long term asthma leads to a deterioration of the structure of the lungs. The lungs make more collagen, more fibres and more smooth muscle tissue. Creatine exacerbates the structural changes in the lungs of asthmatic mice. The graph below shows what happens to the manufacture of collagen.

The researchers suspect that the cause of this effect has something to do with the stimulatory effect that creatine has on the production of IGF-1 in the cells.

The researchers are aware that there are very few reports of negative side effects of creatine, apart from the odd horror story and a bizarre case study. They are also aware that you can’t just simply compare mice with humans. But even so they conclude: "The observed exacerbation of allergic chronic lung inflammation suggests that creatine supplementation might have deleterious effects in individuals with allergic conditions such as asthma."

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2007 Dec; 37(6): 660-7.

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