Creatine supplementation is not only safe but can be beneficial for consumers of all ages, say the authors of a new white paper and position stand published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.1 The white paper, which cites over 200 published studies on creatine, found that short- and long-term creatine supplementation in dosages up to 30 g/day for five years has no adverse side effects, improves athletic performance, and can potentially help prevent injury and promote recovery.
The white paper was commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC). Earlier this year, CRN challenged a proposed bill in New York that would prohibit the sale or distribution of creatine, a popular sports supplement ingredient, to minors. In a letter to Linda Rosenthal, the assemblywoman who introduced the bill, CRN pushed back on the notion that creatine is unsafe, citing the “overwhelming majority” of studies that have proven its safety. Prior to the bill, a study published in Pediatrics suggested that 67.2% of employees of U.S. health food stores were willing to recommend creatine supplements to teenage boys.
Specifically, the new Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition review found that creatine’s potential benefits for athletic performance include increased sprint performance, increased muscle mass and strength, enhanced glycogen synthesis, increased anaerobic threshold, increased work capacity, and enhanced recovery, among other benefits. Researchers examined evidence from previous studies on creatine’s purported ability to promote recovery and prevent injury and found that athletes who take creatine during training and competition experience fewer incidences of injury than athletes who are not taking creatine. In addition, the paper’s authors found that creatine has potential neuroprotective benefits, which could lower athletes’ risk of concussion. The white paper discusses a number of other possible benefits of creatine, including therapeutic benefits for those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, improving health as individuals age, and supporting fetal growth, development, and health during pregnancy. The only consistently reported side effect of creatine supplementation, the study authors note, is weight gain.
After reviewing the existing literature, the study authors confirmed that creatine is “safe and well-tolerated” and can improve exercise performance. They also note that “no study has reported any adverse or ergolytic effect of short- or long-term creatine supplementation.”
Regarding creatine’s use by young consumers, the researchers stated: “Some critics of creatine supplementation have pointed to warnings listed on some product labels that individuals younger than 18 years of age should not take creatine as evidence that creatine supplementation is unsafe in younger populations. It’s important to understand that this is a legal precaution and that there is no scientific evidence that children and/or adolescents should not take creatine. As noted above, a number of short- and long-term studies using relatively high doses of creatine have been conducted in infants, toddlers and adolescents with some health and/or ergogenic benefit observed. These studies provide no evidence that use of creatine at recommended doses pose a health risk to individuals less than 18 years of age.”
“The paper emphasizes that hundreds of studies have been conducted on creatine monohydrate and results consistently demonstrate that it is ‘well-tolerated’ and safe to consume by healthy individuals,” Mike Greene, senior vice president, government relations, CRN, said in a press release. “We welcome these conclusions from scientists who have most closely investigated this ingredient, and we plan to share this published paper broadly, particularly with state legislators and policymakers who may not be familiar with creatine’s strong safety profile.”
Duffy MacKay, ND, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN, added: “As is true with all supplements, creatine is intended to supplement a healthy diet, in combination with other healthy habits. It is not a fast pass to peak athletic performance, and it should not replace a smart diet or a reasonable exercise regimen. Having an open dialogue with your healthcare practitioners and athletic trainers—and also parents, in the case of teenagers—should be the first step for anyone interested in incorporating creatine, or any supplements, into their exercise or wellness regimens.”
In publishing this paper, the International Society of Sports Nutrition says that its official position stand on creatine supplementation is that creatine monohydrate supplementation is not only safe but can be beneficial in consumers ranging from infants to the elderly, with no evidence to show detrimental effects of short-or long-term use (up to 30 g/day for five years).
- Kreider RB et al., “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Published online June 13 2017.