Creatine beyond sports

  • Health
  • Sunday, 26 Jan 2003

CREATINE has attracted a huge following among athletes for its purported ability to improve sports performance, with even Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs acknowledging they’ve used creatine supplements. This amino acid, which is produced naturally in the liver, kidneys and pancreas, also is found in meat and fish.  

Because creatine helps muscle cells store energy, athletes often take supplements in an effort to “load” the muscles with it. Studies have shown that the extra creatine can slightly improve athletic performance in sports requiring bursts of activity.  

Athletes typically take about 20g a day for a few days of loading. Another common dosing regimen is 3g a day for extended periods.  

Precautions: Can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and muscle cramps. Although creatine is popular among adolescents, most studies have been performed only on adults, and creatine’s long-term effects are unknown.  

Creatine may have important medical uses. It may prove able to improve the energy levels of elderly people, help people with diseases that cause neuromuscular degeneration, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and aid recovery from a traumatic brain injury. A US government study is underway to test creatine in people with Huntington’s disease, a neurological disorder.  

Dietary supplement makers are not required by the US government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your health-care provider for advice on selecting a brand.  

Making sense of doctors 

SOMETIMES it seems as if doctors are speaking another language. Millions of Americans with limited English proficiency have that experience every time they use the English-language-dominated health-care system. A new study suggests that, even with interpreters in hospitals, something is lost in translation. And that can be dangerous.  

The study, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, looked at encounters in which an interpreter was used in the pediatric outpatient clinic at Boston Medical Centre. Researchers found an average of 31 translation errors for each clinical session. Some of the errors – especially those made by “ad hoc” or non-professional interpreters – had potentially serious consequences. But even among the professionals, more than half of the errors had possible clinical implications.  

Errors were grouped into five categories. Omission – when the interpreter failed to interpret a word used by the clinician, parent or child – accounted for 52% of the errors and was the most common.  

The others were: addition, substitution, editorialisation and false fluency – when the interpreter used an incorrect word or one that does not exist in the particular language.  

An error was considered to have potential clinical consequences if it altered or potentially altered the history of the present illness, past medical history, testing and treatment, parental understanding of the child’s condition or plans for future medical visits.  

Spraying PMS 

A NASAL spray derived from pheromones, the airborne chemicals emitted by animals when trying to attract a mate, could soon be used to relieve premenstrual syndrome.  

Rather than making users attractive to the opposite sex though, early tests indicate that the spray, called PH80, banishes the blues and eases irritability, anxiety and physical symptoms such as bloating and breast pain. If planned studies go well, PH80 could be in pharmacies within the next few years, making it the first pheromone-based prescription medication.  

“If this works, it would be very exciting and beneficial,” says Ellen W. Freeman, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia who has tested PH80.  

Antidepressants which boost levels of the mood-enhancing brain chemical, serotonin, are currently used to curb symptoms of PMS, and the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder. But they can take a week or more to have an effect, and cause a loss of libido, anxiety and insomnia.  

PH80, in contrast, could be used as needed. Preliminary studies of more than 100 women showed that their mood and physical symptoms rapidly. Larger tests must be conducted, however, before the product can be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.  

PH80, which is a synthetic version of a chemical in human sweat, stimulates nerve endings in the vomeronasal organ, a tiny structure inside the nasal passages that is designed to detect pheromones.  

These nerve cells then send messages to the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that produces hormones that regulate mood, sex drive, anxiety, fear and appetite.  

Scientists discovered the compound’s ability to combat PMS quite by accident. In the early ‘90s, researchers tested the skin secretions on male and female volunteers simply to see if they sparked a reaction. After the study, about 70 of the women reported that their PMS symptoms had lifted. – LAT-WP 

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