Men and women who take creatine monohydrate might soon see signs of hair loss. According to a study published by the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, creatine use has been linked with hair loss among individuals taking the popular exercise supplement. The primary mechanism of hair loss is increased production of DHT among creatine users, a well-documented precursor to pattern baldness.
What is Creatine?
Contrary to popular belief, creatine is naturally produced by the human body. It is formed primarily by the kidney and liver, though not in the doses available via popular weight training supplements. In the body, creatine is a non-essential nutrient produced by L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine that helps muscles form ATP to produce energy.
Because it serves a vital role in the production of energy, creatine has become a popular weight lifting supplement that men and women use to enhance strength and endurance while exercising. A large body of research has positively correlated creatine supplementation and strength gain since the late 1970s, making the supplement wildly popular among male and female athletes looking for a relatively “safe” edge in the gym.
But does creatine cause hair loss? According to new studies, there is reason to think it might.
Creatine and Hair Loss
The link between creatine and hair loss is still being studied. In one of the most talked-about studies, creatine supplementation was correlated with a 56% increase in DHT production (i). The conversion of testosterone to DHT has been strongly correlated with hair miniaturization, a phenomenon that causes hair follicles to slowly become incapable of supporting natural hair growth. Hair miniaturization is thought to be one of the main causes of pattern baldness in both men and women.
The Rugby Institute of South Africa served as the backdrop for this creatine and hair loss study. Additional information on this study:
Study: Double-blind, placebo-controlled.
Subjects: Rugby players volunteered for the study. All participants were of college age.
Dosage: Creatine dosage consisted of a loading phase and maintenance phase, which is commonly recommended by manufacturers of recreational creatine supplements. Loading phase lasted 7 days and consisted of 25 grams/day along with 25 grams of sugar (glucose). Maintenance phase consisted of 14 consecutive days immediately following loading phase, with participants receiving 5 grams/day with 25 grams sugar (glucose).
Placebo: Control group given just sugar.
Results: Testosterone levels remained constant throughout both loading and maintenance phases. Among participants given creatine, DHT levels increased about 57% after loading phase. During maintenance phase, participants taking creatine exhibited DHT levels about 40% above baseline.
Followup Reading: Visit the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in the sources section below to read the original study.
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(i) Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. Issue: Volume 19(5), September 2009, pg. 399-404.