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Creatine May Help Muscular Dystrophy

Researchers Say the Nutritional Supplement May Improve Muscle Strength

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on February 02, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 2, 2007 -- The nutritional supplement creatine can help strengthen theweakened muscles of people with muscular dystrophy, a review of past researchsuggests.

Best known as a legal performance-enhancing supplement for athletes lookingto build muscle mass, creatine appeared to help muscular dystrophy patientsbuild muscle mass as well.

The supplement’s effects were modest, say the researchers who conducted thereview.

Twelve studies involving 266 people were included in the review. When theresults were combined, taking creatine, either short-term or long-term, wasfound to improve muscle strength by an average of 8.5% among patients withvarious types of muscular dystrophy.

Creatine users also gained an average of 1.4 pounds of lean body masscompared with patients taking placebo treatments.

‘A Useful Therapy’

The review was commissioned by the Cochrane Collaboration, an independentorganization that produces systematic reviews of research into current medicalpractices. The findings are published in the latest issue of the organization’sjournal, The Cochrane Library.

“These studies show that creatine is a useful symptomatic therapy,”researcher Matthias Vorgerd tells WebMD. “It is not a cure, and its effectswere modest, but this is something that patients should consider.”

Creatine is produced naturally in the body. For decades, bodybuilders andother athletes have taken creatine in supplement form in an effort to boostathletic performance. Its use is allowed by amateur and professional sportingorganizations.

People with the group of disorders collectively known as muscular dystrophyoften have low levels of natural creatine. The thinking has been that raisingthese levels with creatine supplements could help improve muscle function.

Though this seems to be true in patients with muscular dystrophy, creatinesupplementation was not found to be useful in patients with a related group ofdisorders known as metabolic myopathies.

Responses Vary

In muscular dystrophy patients, the proteins that make up the muscles areeither damaged or missing, while in patients with metabolic myopathies, thedefect lies in body chemicals that can affect the muscles.

Vorgerd says it is not clear why muscular dystrophy patients seemed tobenefit from creatine supplementation while those with metabolic myopathies didnot.

In their newly published report, the researchers called for new studies toaddress this and other unanswered questions.

Muscular Dystrophy Association Medical Director Valerie Cwik, MD, says theresearch suggests creatine may be more beneficial for some forms of musculardystrophy than for others.

“Responses have been variable across the different dystrophies, and I don’tthink the review really makes that clear,” she tells WebMD. “That is why it isso important that patients talk to their treating physicians about the pros andcons of creatine supplementation.”

Show Sources

SOURCES: Kley, R.A. The Cochrane Library, 2007; online edition. Rudolf Kley, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany. Matthias Vorgerd, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany. Valerie Cwik, MD, medical director and vice president for research, Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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