Experiments in animals suggest the exercise supplement Creatine may prevent a baby’s brain being damaged during pregnancy and childbirth. Human studies are needed.
Creatine packs a punch at the gym
Creatine is a popular nutritional supplement among athletes as it improves muscle performance in healthy individuals. Athletes rave about the flavoured powder which, when mixed with water or milk, produces a “delicious energy shake”. Athletes believe Creatine can sustain their performance during short but intense periods of exercise such as weight training, sprinting, and baseball. It works by releasing energy during periods of high and fluctuating energy demand. Creatine may hold the key to preventing an unborn baby’s brain from being injured during pregnancy and childbirth.
Why pregnancy and childbirth is the ultimate workout
As the baby develops during pregnancy the brain is especially vulnerable to injury. As the baby’s brain develops it may face many risks which are equivalent to the intense periods of high and fluctuating energy demand athletes experience during intense exercise. Injury may be caused by many different risks, including the baby being born too early, the placenta, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the body, not working properly, or an infection in the womb. This can cause very distressing long term problems, including cerebral palsy, a disorder where the ability to move the arms or legs normally is reduced, blindness, deafness, or other physical disabilities.
Experiments suggest Creatine may prevent brain injury
Human studies have shown when Creatine is given to the mother during pregnancy, it can safely pass through the placenta to the baby. Experiments in animals suggest that Creatine having passed through the placenta may be able to protect the baby’s brain from injury. Recently researchers have attempted to identify, appraise, and combine the results all high quality experiments in a recently published Cochrane review. Unfortunately, they could not find any high quality scientific experiments. These high quality studies are called randomised controlled trials. They are experiments which could allocate mothers with babies in the womb at risk of brain injury to Creatine or “sugar pill” at random to see if Creatine really works.
Human studies are needed
The researchers suggest the time is right to conduct this high quality scientific experiment. They explain the babies in these trials would need to be followed up over a long period of time so the effects of Creatine could be measured well into adulthood.
Dickinson H, Bain E, Wilkinson D, Middleton P, Crowther CA, Walker DW. Creatine for women in pregnancy for neuroprotection of the fetus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD010846. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010846.pub2
Dickinson H, Ellery S, Ireland Z, LaRosa D, Snow R, Walker DW. Creatine supplementation during pregnancy: summary of experimental studies suggesting a treatment to improve fetal and neonatal morbidity and reduce mortality in high-risk human pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2014 Apr 27;14:150.