Creatine supplements are extremely popular among amateur and pro athletes who believe the substance gives their muscles a boost. But a study finds that the supplements may also help women with knee osteoarthritis.
The findings, published online recently in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, focused on postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis. For the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, some of the women took a creatine supplement for 12 weeks, while the others took a placebo.
Creatine is made up of amino acids and found naturally in the body. It's carried in the blood to be used by the muscles. Taking it as a supplement is thought to enhance muscle function.
In the study both groups did a three-month lower limb strengthening program and were evaluated at the beginning of the study and at the end for factors such as physical function, lean mass, muscle strength, quality of life, pain and stiffness. The workouts consisted of resistance exercises done three times a week and included leg press, leg extension and half-squat exercises.
Only the group taking the creatine supplements showed substantial improvements in physical function. Stiffness also improved in the creatine group but not the placebo group. The creatine group showed significant gains in lower limb lean mass and quality of life compared with those who took the placebo. No differences in muscle strength or pain reduction were seen between the two groups.