An increasing number of people the United States choose to become vegetarians, especially teenagers. The vegetarian diet has several health benefits, including lower saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol levels. All of these have been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Although a vegetarian diet offers these health benefits, vegetarians generally have lower levels of creatinine because of the lack of meat in the diet.
Creatinine is a byproduct of the breakdown of creatine, an organic acid. Creatine is used by the muscle cells as an energy source during exercise. In the muscles, some creatine may spontaneously be converted to creatinine. The level of creatinine in your blood is related to muscle mass and kidney function. The greater the muscle mass, the higher your creatinine levels will be. If you have decreased kidney function, your creatinine levels may be higher, because the kidneys filter waste products like creatinine. Your creatinine levels can also be affected by your diet. Individuals who consume a diet that is very high in protein generally have higher levels of creatinine. Vegetarians do not consume meat, so their creatinine levels are typically lower in comparison to those who eat meat.
Sources of Creatine and Creatinine
Creatine is found in meat and fish. A diet that excludes animal protein like the vegetarian diet will result in lower levels of creatine and ultimately lower levels of creatinine. Creatine can be synthesized by the liver, kidneys and pancreas from the amino acids, or building blocks of protein, arginine, glycine and methionine. This is the sole source of creatine and creatinine for vegetarians.
There are different forms of vegetarianism. A vegan does not eat meat or animal products of any kind. Lacto-ovo vegetarians exclude meat from the diet, but will consume dairy products and eggs. Ovo-vegetarians will include eggs in the diet, but will not consume any dairy products. The last form of vegetarianism is semi-vegetarianism. These individuals may consume fish or chicken, but consume no other meats. Because semi-vegetarians may consume fish or chicken, their creatinine levels are higher in comparison to vegetarians.
Creatine supplementation may be beneficial to vegetarians because they do not get creatine from the diet. Creatine supplementation results in higher creatinine levels. Supplements are sold primarily in powder form, however liquids, tablets and capsules are also available. Side-effects of creatine supplements include weight gain, muscle cramps, diarrhea, dizziness and high blood pressure. Before taking any supplement, consult your physician to decide if it is appropriate for you.