By Kelly Foss |
Nov. 21, 2011
A paper published in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition, suggests that creatine might help prevent the accumulation of excess fat in the liver. The research was carried out in large part by professors and students at Memorial University.
Dr. Sean Brosnan, a professor of Biochemistry, co-authored the paper and explains that there are certain conditions in which the liver can fill up with fat. The principal ones are associated with excessive alcohol intake or obesity.
“The biggest issue with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is that it can precede and lead to a constellation of other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, fibrosis, cirrhosis and even liver cancer,” he said. “Obviously the way to deal with that is never to let it happen, and that’s very largely based on lifestyle -- diet and exercise. But if it does happen, how do you eliminate it?”
Dr. Brosnan’s research group has reason to believe that creatine monohydrate might be effective in preventing the fats from accumulating in the first place. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance made in the body from amino acids. It can also be obtained from eating meat and fish.
In testing the theory, rats were fed a high-fat diet and in three short weeks their livers were already showing signs of NAFLD. However, that didn’t happen to animals that were fed creatine along with the high fat diet and Dr. Brosnan thinks he knows why.
“It has to do with creatine causing the expression of different genes,” he said. “These genes code for proteins which are responsible for oxidizing liver fat so that it does not accumulate.”
He is optimistic of the importance of this find, but he cautions it is just one study in rats. He now hopes to determine whether or not creatine, in addition to preventing NAFLD, can reverse the condition.
“We also need to look at other experimental models and see if it also affects fatty liver caused by ingesting high-fructose corn syrup or alcohol,” said Dr. Brosnan. “We also want to look at dosing. We started off with reasonably high doses of creatine. So how low can we go? Then we will have to start talking to people who are interested in clinical trials to see if it works in humans.”
Dr. Brosnan says one of the advantages of creatine, if it does work in humans, is that it already has an appreciable safety record. Athletes, particularly weightlifters, currently take it in significant quantities to improve performance.