A Temple University researcher seeking physiological evidence of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has found a link between creatine and metabolic energy. The findings, which hold promise for future CFS treatments, were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.
"We found that creatine affects mitochondria – the parts of the cells that produce energy for all biological functioning – in normal human subjects. Now that we have established this baseline evidence, we are looking at the link between creatine and energy production in CFS patients," said lead author Sinclair Smith, Sc.D., assistant professor of occupational therapy in Temple's College of Health Professions.
Creatine, thought to build muscle and improve performance, is a popular over-the-counter supplement used by athletes. Smith and his colleagues wondered if creatine could also be used to help relieve the extreme physical and mental fatigue that strikes CFS sufferers. "Many physicians still don't believe that CFS exists, making it important to investigate possible physiologic differences and to determine if we can impact metabolic function in CFS patients," explained Smith.
"In addition to improving muscle metabolic function, recent studies show that creatine supplementation may improve nervous system function as well. Given that cognitive fatigue is a frequent symptom of CFS, we thought that creatine may enhance both muscle and neural metabolic status in people with CFS," said Smith.
In the study, "Use of phosphocreatine kinetics to determine the influence of creatine on muscle mitochondrial respiration: an in vivo 31P-MRS study of oral creatine ingestion," the researchers analyzed the effect of naturally -produced and supplemental creatine on the rate of muscle metabolism using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques during exercise and rest.
While previous studies have evaluated the link between creatine and mitochondria in animals and human muscle samples, Smith's was the first lab to test in people.
Smith collaborated in this research with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston University and Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.