Creatine Helps Children with Muscular Dystrophy
Creatine supplementation increases muscle strength and stamina and prevents joint stiffness in boys with muscular dystrophy, according to a new study in Muscle & Nerve (2003;27:604–10).
Muscular dystrophies are genetic diseases characterized by progressive muscle weakness. In Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common type of muscular dystrophy, the nature of the genetic defect is such that only boys develop the disease. In this form of muscular dystrophy the muscles of the pelvis and shoulder region are affected first, followed by other muscles throughout the body. Joint stiffness becomes severe as the muscles become less able to flex or extend the joints normally. Standing and walking become increasingly difficult and wheelchairs are required in most cases by age 10 to 12 years. Although some medications can help relieve symptoms of muscular dystrophy, there is no curative treatment and most boys with this disease do not live beyond 20 years of age.
Creatine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body, functions as a storehouse of energy. It also has an important role in developing and maintaining muscle. Improved muscle strength and stamina have been observed in athletes and healthy people after creatine supplementation, and several previous reports have suggested that muscle strength can be enhanced in people with various neuromuscular disorders, including some muscular dystrophies. In one reported case, a boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy had improved muscle performance after 155 days of creatine supplementation.
Fifteen boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or with a similar muscular dystrophy known as Becker muscular dystrophy, participated in the current study. They were randomly divided into two groups. During the first three months of the study, one group received 3 grams of creatine per day and the other received a placebo; no treatment was given during the next two months, and during the last three months the treatment groups were reversed. Muscle strength increased by 13% after treatment with creatine, and the length of time of muscle activity before muscle exhaustion occurred increased by 76%. Muscle strength and time to exhaustion were unchanged after the placebo phase. Furthermore, joint stiffness increased by 24% after three months of placebo but did not increase during creatine treatment.
In a previous study, 12 people with various types of muscular dystrophy, including Becker and Duchenne, had significantly improved muscle performance after eight weeks of creatine supplementation. The results of the current study further demonstrate that creatine supplementation improves muscle strength and stamina specifically in boys with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy. The effects of long-term use of creatine on overall health and the progression of these diseases should be evaluated in longer studies.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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