The nutritional supplement creatine is largely safe and mounting evidence suggests that it can build muscle mass. Still, some people, including young athletes and anyone with a chronic health condition, would do well to avoid the product, according to researchers at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.
About 80% of studies on the supplement have shown it is effective. And according to Dr. Richard Kreider at the University of Memphis, Tennessee creatine is safe in healthy people.
He presented research on about 100 college football players who used creatine daily. After one year, there was no evidence of liver or kidney problems, or of a higher rate of injury or cramping among creatine users.
Some research has suggested creatine reduces athletes' injury risk because it increases their muscle mass.
Despite these positive reports, many experts don't advise a high school athlete or anyone in poor health to take creatine.
It is unclear how creatine would interact with drugs. And high school athletes often have a "more-is-better" attitude that could lead to creatine overload. The body excretes excess creatine, pulling water along the way and increasing the risk of dehydration. This may also cause cramping associated with creatine use.
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