Is Creatine a Safe Supplement for Teenagers?

Creatine is an amino acid that is produced by your body, and it is also found in dietary sources such as meat and fish, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Your body converts creatine into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and stores it in your muscles. Creatine supplements are used by body builders and competitive athletes to help them increase lean muscle mass and enhance performance. Creatine use has also been associated with negative effects, such as hypertension and liver dysfunction. Creatine supplements are therefore not considered safe for teenagers.

Creatine Use Among Teens

A study published in a 2001 issue of "Pediatrics" examined the use of creatine supplements among young athletes, including those below the age of 18. The study involved 1,103 participants between the ages of 10 and 18 who answered a confidential survey regarding their creatine use. The results showed that creatine use occurred in every grade level after grade 6. The study also determined that creatine use was most common among football players, wrestlers, hockey players, gymnasts and lacrosse players. Almost 75 percent of participants cited enhanced performance as their reason for taking creatine. However, more research is needed to verify the safety of using creatine supplements.

Dose

The safety of creatine supplements has not been thoroughly tested for anyone under the age of 19, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. This means that creatine is generally not recommended for children and teenagers. The loading dose for adults 19 and older is 5 grams of creatine taken 4 times daily for a week. The maintenance dose is 20 to 25 grams daily for 5 days. These doses have been established based on testing with athletes. Recommended creatine doses for non-athletes in the same age range have not been established.

Side Effects

Creatine supplement use has been associated with side effects such as stomach upset, appetite loss, diarrhea and nausea. Creatine use is also likely to trigger asthma or allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to creatine or predisposed to allergies. Creatine sometimes causes the breakdown of muscle tissue, leading to muscle tears. Increased body mass and weight gain are also possible side effects. Heat intolerance, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are other adverse reactions associated with creatine use.

Possible Interactions

There is a danger of possible interaction between creatine and certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cimetidine. There is an increased risk of dehydration when creatine is taken with diuretics. Creatine also increases the risk of kidney damage when taken with cimetidine. Caffeine impairs your body's ability to use creatine, and it also increases your risk of dehydration.

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