Creatine is a type of acid that occurs naturally in the human body (like in all vertebrates) and helps supply energy to organs and systems, particularly to muscle. It is biosynthesized in the kidneys and liver with the help of the GATM enzyme, and about 95% of all creatine in your body is found in the skeleton, with the remaining 5% to be stored in the heart, brain and testes. Creatine is also used in the treatment of muscular disorders (dystrophies).
How is creatine involved in body processes?
If present inside a muscle cell, creatine attracts the water surrounding it, therefore enlarging the cell. As some studies suggest, this may also trigger protein synthesis. Moreover, it is also believed that creatine supplies more energy to muscles by speeding up metabolism and increasing the formation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, a vital compound used as a coenzyme in intracellular energy transfer). ATP is a byproduct of several processes including cellular respiration and fermentation. Increased metabolic activity speeds up cellular respiration and with it the formation of ATP.
How is creatine connected to hair health?
So far, creatine looks more like the good guy, but is there anything we’re missing? According to a study conducted by the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University, the use of creatine monohydrate promotes the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that causes male pattern baldness by “suffocating” the hair follicle. This has been confirmed by a number of studies in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
Although DHT is also synthesized in the hair follicle, it may block nutrient absorption if in excess, leading to the gradual thinning of the hair shaft as the follicle will shrink in size prior to permanent deterioration.
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Are you at risk?
DHT-related hair loss is usually caused by genetics, but sometimes it can be promoted or even triggered by the use of creatine fitness supplements meant to increase your muscle mass and improve performance in bodybuilding. If you are using these supplements and have a history of male pattern baldness in your family, or if you have simply noticed your hair thinning after a few months of use, stop taking the supplements immediately and speak to a dermatologist. A person who uses creatine monohydrate as a nutritional/fitness supplement is likely to have higher creatine levels than someone who doesn’t, and as a result more testosterone will be converted into DHT.
Creatine is found in red meat and in certain types of fish, but this isn’t something you should worry about, as the compound is destroyed by cooking. If you are prone to or wish to prevent hair loss, avoid creatine fitness supplements and eat healthy meals that are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.