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How creatine lengthens your lifespan

Animal studies show that creatine [structural formula below] works as a life extender. Nutritionists at the University of Sao Paulo did experiments with rats and may have discovered why. The strength sports supplement reduces the production of the risky amino acid homocysteine and protects cells against damage.

Creatine is a molecular battery. Cells stick energy-providing phosphate groups on to creatine molecules, and pull them off again when they need them. That's why strength athletes can manage longer sets if they take creatine. The human body gets creatine from foods such as fish and meat, but also makes the substance itself from the amino acids arginine and glycine. When producing creatine, the body also uses methyl groups from the S-adenosylmethionine molecule, which as a result change into homocysteine. Seventy percent of the homocysteine in your body is produced as a result of your body manufacturing creatine.

People with high amounts of homocysteine in their blood are not healthy and have an increased chance of a heart attack. How this happens is not known. Until recently researchers thought that homocysteine itself was responsible for this, but this theory has been rejected. [That extremely high concentrations of homocysteine, such as are found in metabolic disorders or serious doping use, do pose considerable risk is not disputed by researchers – ed.] In trials, vitamin B supplements did lower the concentration of homocysteine, but did not reduce the risk of a heart attack. Apparently something goes wrong in the body's homocysteine production process.

And that's where creatine comes into the equation. Put creatine into a body, and the production of homocysteine goes down.

The Brazilians were able to confirm this. They gave rats feed consisting of 2 percent creatine [DCr] for a period of four weeks. Another group were first given 5 g creatine per kg bodyweight for 5 days, and after that feed consisting of 2 percent creatine. A control group got no creatine at all.

How creatine lengthens your lifespan

The creatine supplement reduced the concentration in the blood of TBARS, a marker for free radical damage. The more creatine the rats had in their blood, the lower the TBARS concentration. The concentration of free radicals, such as hydrogen peroxide, was also lower.

How creatine lengthens your lifespan

What’s more, the lower the TBARS concentration in the rats’ blood, the lower their homocysteine level.

Creatine also reduced the production of the endogenous antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is a tripeptide that is used by detoxifying enzymes like glutathione S-transferase. The researchers suspect that creatine supplementation results in the body needing less glutathione. They think that creatine itself works as an antioxidant.

Research on creatine and homocysteine is doubly interesting for power athletes. Because they have more muscle mass, their body makes more creatine and they have more homocysteine in their body. That's why the homocysteine level goes down in transsexuals that change from man to woman, and thus give up muscle mass. [Atherosclerosis. 2003 May;168(1):139-46.] Using steroids raises the concentration of homocysteine even further. In studies on chemical bodybuilders, a raised homocysteine level heralded a fatal heart attack. [British Journal of Sports Medicine 2006;40:644-8.]

Br J Nutr. 2009 Jul;102(1)110-6.

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