What the research says about creatine and hair loss
There isnâ€™t much to indicate that creatine supplementation actually causes hair loss. In fact, much of the evidence for the link is anecdotal. This means that it comes from peopleâ€™s personal testimony or experiences.
However, a small 2009 study of college-age rugby players found increased levels of a hormone associated with hair loss following 3 weeks of a creatine supplementation regimen. This hormone is called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Creatine and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels
DHT is a hormone thatâ€™s derived from another hormone that you may be familiar with â€” testosterone. DHT is also more potent than testosterone.
How does DHT relate to hair loss?
Hair follicles have their own life cycle. A hair growth phase is followed by a resting phase, after which the hair falls out.
DHT can bind to specific hormone receptors in hair follicles. This can lead to briefer hair growth cycles as well as hairs that are thinner and shorter. Because thereâ€™s less hair growth, more hairs are falling out than are replaced.
Additionally, some people have a genetic predisposition to hair loss. Variations in a gene called AR can lead to increased activity of the hormone receptors found within hair follicles.
Also, the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT may be more active in people with hair loss.
How does creatine relate to hair loss?
The 2009 study in rugby players used a creatine supplement regimen involving 7 days of creatine loading, during which a higher level of the supplement was given. This was followed by a maintenance period of lower levels of creatine.
The researchers found that levels of DHT increased over 50 percent during the loading period and stayed 40 percent over baseline during the maintenance period. Levels of testosterone didnâ€™t change.
Itâ€™s important to note here that the researchers didnâ€™t assess hair loss in the study participants. Therefore, we can only observe the effect on hormone levels here.
An increase in DHT levels was observed. Since DHT levels play a role in hair loss, this increase could put you at risk, particularly if youâ€™re genetically predisposed to hair loss.
Overall, more research is needed into creatineâ€™s effect on DHT levels. Further research should also be performed to assess whether increases in DHT due to creatine supplementation are sufficient to promote hair loss.
What is creatine and how does it work?
Creatine is a source of energy for your cells. Itâ€™s naturally produced by your liver, pancreas, and kidneys. You can also acquire creatine through your diet by consuming red meat and fish.
Creatine is stored in your skeletal muscles as phosphocreatine. This can be broken down later during physical activity to be used as energy for muscle contractions.
When you take creatine supplements, more creatine becomes available in your muscles. Due to this increase in creatine levels, your muscles may be able to generate more energy.
Because of this, some people take creatine to increase their muscle mass and improve athletic performance. Creatine supplements can be found in a variety of forms, including powders, liquids, and tablets.
Side effects and safety
If you want to use creatine, there are some potential side effects and safety concerns that you should be aware of. Weâ€™ll explore these topics in more detail below.
Creatine can cause water retention, which may also lead to temporary weight gain. Concerns have been raised that water retention may lead to the risk of things like dehydration and cramps. However, research hasnâ€™t supported these concerns.
A 2003 study in college football players found that creatine didnâ€™t lead to increased levels of cramping or injury. Additionally, a 2009 review found no evidence to support that creatine use negatively affected fluid balance or heat tolerance.
There are also concerns that creatine could damage the kidneys. A 2018 review found that creatine had no negative effects on kidney function in healthy individuals.
However, if you have underlying kidney problems, you may wish to avoid taking creatine supplements.
Safe for adults
Compared to other supplements, creatine has been extensively studied in relation to ergogenic benefits. When taken in appropriate doses, creatine is safe to use, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Additionally, in a 2017 position statement, the International Society of Sports Nutrition says that using creatine within the proper guidelines is safe, effective, and ethical.
There are few studies assessing the effects of long-term creatine use. However, some older studies (in 2001 and 2003) with athletes have indicated that long- term use of creatine doesnâ€™t lead to any adverse health effects.
Use caution for adolescents
Adolescents should use caution when considering creatine supplementation. This is because studies on the safety of creatine supplementation in healthy adolescents are limited.
However, most adolescents ingest some amount of creatine as part of their everyday diet.
If youâ€™d like to start using creatine as a supplement but have questions or concerns, you should speak to your doctor first.
When to see a doctor
As discussed above, creatine supplementation doesnâ€™t directly lead to hair loss. But if youâ€™re experiencing hair loss, you should make an appointment with your doctor.
Additionally, you should see your doctor if you experience sudden, patchy hair loss or lose large amounts of hair when brushing or washing.
Many causes of hair loss are treatable. Your doctor will work closely with you to diagnose the cause of your hair loss and recommend a treatment thatâ€™s right for you.
Research hasnâ€™t shown that creatine directly causes hair loss, but more research is needed in this area. One 2009 study did find that creatine supplementation is associated with an increase in a hormone called DHT, which can contribute to hair loss.
Overall, according to the current evidence available, creatine is safe to use as a supplement for most adults. However, since it may lead to increases in DHT levels, you may wish to avoid using creatine or talk to your doctor before using it if youâ€™re predisposed to hair loss.
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