Most people that lift weights know that creatine helps give people an extra pump to their muscles after consistent supplementation. Typically it takes about 4-5 weeks of supplementing 5 grams per day to experience a noticeable effect on the body. But could creatine also have beneficial effects on the brain and mood? Some studies suggest that it may help people ward off cases of depression. It should be noted that most studies involving creatine monohydrate for depression have very few participants, but research with this supplement in cases of depression is gaining popularity.
Creatine Monohydrate for Depression
Studies have shown that creatine monohydrate can reduce depressive symptoms in cases of treatment-resistant depression. This suggests that it may be beneficial to classify creatine among antidepressant augmentation strategies. Researchers think that creatine supplementation may help modify high-energy phosphate metabolism in individuals with depression.
2007 Preliminary study: Creatine monohydrate for depression
In one small scale (2007) study, eight individuals with standard depression and two individuals with bipolar treatment-resistant depression were given 3-5 g/day of creatine monohydrate. They were given this amount for four weeks and their mood was measured with the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Hamilton Anxiety Scale, and Clinical Impression scores. Their moods were reported before the supplementation as well as after each week. All scores improved significantly and there were no major adverse effects from supplementation.
2012 Study: Creatine for women with an SSRI antidepressant
Additionally, creatine augmentation with an SSRI antidepressant may be more effective than an antidepressant alone. In a Korean (2012) study involving 52 female patients diagnosed with major depression, each woman received Lexapro (escitalopram) – a common SSRI medication. Researchers then supplemented half of the women with 5 grams of creatine, while giving the other half a placebo pill.
By the second week, the women taking the creatine supplements had a much better antidepressant effect than those receiving the placebo. Their rating scores showed that they were no longer clinically depressed – whereas the placebo group still was dealing with depression. Researchers noted that improvements continued throughout the 8 week testing period. All major side effects were noted to be a result of the SSRI medication.
Benefits of creatine for the body and brain
Creatine is documented as helping with neurological conditions such as muscular dystrophy. It is also utilized by many athletes to help improve performance and muscle strength. It also reduces damage on our genetics, prevents toxins from damaging our nerve cells, and stops fats from oxidizing in our blood. Overall, this supplement is considered healthy for our body and tends to have a minimal side effect profile.
Most people hypothesize that creatine helps increase the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the brain, which may make the brain less susceptible to experiencing depression. For this reason, people may want to consider it and test out to see whether they are able to notice improvements in mental health.
If people are already taking an antidepressant, it is hypothesized that creatine supplementation may help improve their mood quicker. Although more research is needed, there is already some that would lead us to believe that creatine augmentation would be beneficial in improving mental health.
Creatine for Bipolar Disorder: May Induce Hypomania / Mania
If you are someone with bipolar disorder, it should be noted that researchers have seen that it may be linked to triggering a manic or hypomanic switch. In other words, individuals that have bipolar depression may start taking creatine and notice that it flips them into an over-the-top good mood. For this reason, it is suggested to proceed with caution if you are bipolar and are considering creatine supplementation.
Does creatine help men with depression?
There is less evidence supporting creatine for depression in men compared to supplementing creatine in women. For this reason, it is suspected that women using this supplement may have better antidepressant effects than men. There is still more research that needs to be conducted regarding creatine supplementation for mental illness.
Creatine Monohydrate: Safety Concerns
Despite the fact that creatine is considered very safe, individuals with kidney issues or high blood pressure should consult a medical professional before supplementation. Most people don’t experience any negative side effects from creatine, but if you are experiencing side effects, from this supplement, it is advised to discontinue usage.
Additional research is needed…
Most of the preliminary studies show that it may be worthwhile to try out – especially since there are minimal side effects. Obviously more larger scale studies need to be conducted before we can conclude whether creatine has an antidepressant effect. The majority of current studies have very few participants – larger studies must be conducted to increase confidence that this supplement has a statistically significant effect. The University of Utah has several studies related to creatine and depression in the works.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17988366
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22864465
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10802796