Creatine’s Effects, Risks Discussed
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ People wondering about potentially dangerous side effects of a controversial sports nutrition supplement, taken to get extra energy and strength, were given a yellow caution light Thursday.
Researchers gave a qualifed OK, but warned that there still is a lot unknown about the muscle-building supplement known as creatine.
An American College of Sports Medicine panel told doctors, athletic trainers and researchers at its convention that there have been no significant health problems associated with the use of creatine.
``Nobody has shown it’s dangerous,″ said Aaron Sidner, a researcher at Oregon State.
However, scientists warned that no studies have been done on the long-range effects of the product, no one knows how it reacts with other muscle-building supplements and the quality of what a person can buy varies.
Creatine, which comes in the form of tablet or powder mixed with a drink, is sold at most health food stores. The pricey product, costing anywhere from $50 to $100 for a month’s supply, replenishes energy in muscles, decreasing muscle fatigue in the process. It also increases body mass.
The health store industry hailed its arrival in 1992 as a breakthrough in nutritional supplements. Creatine and other supplements were seen as a alternatives to illegal steriods. The drug supplement industry is expected to be worth $12.3 billion by 2000, said Dr. Gary Wadler, a faculty member at New York University School of Medicine.
Creatine is used by such high-profile athletes as St. Louis Cardinals first-baseman Mark McGwire and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson, and it is popular with thousands of college and high school athletes.
The report by the American College of Sports Medicine said creatine most benefits athletes, such as sprinters who do short-term, intense bouts of exercise, and weighlifters who do resistance training. It doesn’t improve longer duration exercise, such as long-distance running.
Scientists aren’t sure why creatine doesn’t work for everyone.
``This variation between individuals has intrigued us,″ said Paul Greenhaff, a researcher at the University of Birmingham in England.
Not all the researchers were convinced of creatine’s effectiveness.
``I have trouble getting my head around the fact that in a few days a few organic chemists can do a better job than evolution over hundreds of thousands of years,″ said J. Duncan MacDougall, a professor of physical education at McMaster University in Ontario.
A survey by USA Today found that only about 30 percent of pro sports teams make creatine available to their players. Trainers and conditioning coaches for the teams interviewed by the newspaper said it causes muscle cramps and tears and gastrointestinal problems.
The scientists disputed those claims. They also disputed a popular belief that creatine causes kidney problems.
What creatine consumers should be concerned about is how much they use, whether they combine it with other muscle-building supplements and whether they are getting the real product, the scientists said.
Researchers were uncertain if mixing creatine with other supplements, popular with many users, will cause any health problems. They also said many users tend to take more than they probably should.
``We’re in an era of poly-supplement abuse,″ Wadler said. ``I’ve gone to these nutritional stores and they will sell you anything.″