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An Overview of Creatine Supplements

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How Is Creatine Used? continued...

Despite the popularity of creatine among young people, there has been very little research conducted in children under age 18. Of those studies, a few have suggested a positive effect but the overall evidence is inconclusive. In one study, teenage swimmers performed better after taking creatine; in another study, it helped high school soccer players sprint, dribble, and jump more effectively.

Researchers are studying whether creatine might also be useful for treating certain health conditions caused by weakened muscles, including:

Creatine is also being studied as a way to lower cholesterol in people with abnormally high levels. Although early research has been promising, it's too early to say for sure whether creatine is effective for any of these conditions.

How Safe Is Creatine?

Just because creatine is natural, doesn't necessarily mean that it is safe. Supplements aren't held to the same standards by the FDA as medications, which means you can't always know exactly what's in your supplement, or in what amounts.

Researchers still don't know the long-term effects of taking creatine supplements, especially in young people. Adolescents who take creatine often do so without their doctor's advice, which can cause them to take more than the recommended dose.

Although most healthy people can take it with no problem, creatine can, in rare cases, have adverse effects, particularly when used in excess. Side effects can include:

  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Kidney problems
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Rash
  • Stomach upset

Certain drugs, including diabetes medications, acetaminophen, and diuretics, can have dangerous interactions with creatine. Taking the stimulants caffeine and ephedra with creatine can increase the risk of side effects.

Creatine isn't recommended for people with kidney or liver disease, or diabetes. Others who should avoid taking it are children under age 18 and women who are pregnant or nursing. Also don't use creatine if you are taking any medication or supplement that could affect your blood sugar, because creatine may also affect blood sugar levels.

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