Creatine has long been used by athletes as a safe, inexpensive, legal, yet effective performance enhancing supplement. This nutrient, which is a combination of arginine, glycine, and methionine, has surged in popularity and is now common among even recreational athletes.
Bodybuilders, whether professional or casual, often supplement creatine to boost strength and hypertrophy. Additionally, creatine aids in recovery and muscle repair, and has been shown to reduce soreness. When not used for these tasks, creatine is stored in cells to regenerate ATP during intense exercise. Recent research shows that creatine supplementation isn’t just limited to these athletic contexts, though.
A team of German scientists analyzed the effects of creatine supplementation in mice, attempting to determine whether it had any effect on neurobehavioral tests as well as life span. The results were significant, across a number of different performance-based assessments.
The mice receiving creatine in the experiment seemed to be more active than the control group, showing a trend toward increased forward motion. Additionally, creatine appeared to boost nuerobehavioral function, as the mice in the creatine group demonstrated improved performance in an object memory test, which researchers noted was “well-validated” and “a reasonable approximation to corresponding human tests.”
The researchers also pointed out that this could have an improvement on the quality of life for aging populations, as a previous study indicated that more than one-third of men and women aged 60-80 showed signs of memory impairment.
Perhaps the most significant result of the study, though, is the effect creatine demonstrated on aging. Mean healthy lifespan in the rats increased dramatically, with the creatine group demonstrating a 9% increase in healthy life span. Maximum lifespan also increased, and a post-mortem analysis of the rats showed no significant increase in renal (kidney) damage, which is sometimes suggested to be a negative side-effect of creatine supplementation. Interestingly, the creatine supplementation also prompted changes in genetic and biochemical indications of aging within the rats (1).
And while it is easy to be skeptical of the results of a study based on rats, the researchers pointed out that the favorable safety profile of creatine as well as the ease of supplementation made it a good choice for human application. In addition, they concluded that because there were “no real safety concerns,” creatine “might have the potential to contribute to healthy human aging” (1).
- Bender, A, et al. Creatine Improves Health and Survival of Mice. Neurobiology of Aging, 2008; 29(9): 1404-1411