One of the natural supplements gaining popularity over the past 20 years is creatine. It is known best for its use to boost athletic performance. But, as I describe here, it could be far more valuable for people with major heart and lung disease.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) are common diseases in the U.S. A symptom of both is shortness of breath when moving around. This is caused by impaired skeletal muscle function. Your muscle function depends on several factors: blood flow; amount of muscle mass; type of muscle fiber; and energy burned in the muscle. Changes in any factors play a key role in weakened muscles.
Muscle performance consists of two parts: strength; and endurance. Strength is the force it can exert and endurance is its ability to sustain a certain force over a certain period of time. Losing either results in muscle weakness. Now, both diseases here involve muscle weakness — especially those in your limbs and any involved in breathing. One of the major reasons why CHF or COPD patients stop exercising is that their leg muscles are tired.
Several things cause this weakness:
— Low oxygen levels or reduced blood flow
— Oxidative stress
— Deficiencies in nutrients
— Medications (e.g. steroids)
— Muscle not used enough
People have used, with variable success, exercise training, nutritional supplements, anabolic steroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs to help their muscles. Since it is known that the creatine levels are low in both the heart and skeletal muscles, there are several studies that used creatine for CHF and COPD. Here’s what they found:
— In 17 CHF patients, 20 g of creatine/day was used for 10 days. It increased muscle strength and endurance. It made more energy-rich phosphates available in the muscles.
— In 20 CHF patients, 20 g a day was used for five days. Creatine improved skeletal muscle endurance and the muscle’s response to exercise.
— In 20 CHF patients, 20 g was used for six weeks. It led to increased body weight and improved muscle strength.
— In 38 patients with COPD, daily creatine increased fat-free muscle mass, improved limb muscle performance, improved muscle strength and endurance at the knee, and improved general health status.