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Teen athletes: Study says save creatine for later

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August 7, 2001 Posted: 11:34 AM EDT (1534 GMT)

(CNN) -- Newly reported study data suggests that many adolescent athletes may be ignoring warnings about the use of creatine, a performance-enhancing supplement.

Some 5.6 percent of middle- and high-school respondents said they’ve used the supplement, in the study conducted by Cornell Medical College and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Creatine monohydrate is generally considered safe for use by adult athletes. But there’s little information about potential health risks for adolescents. The American College of Sports Medicine has discouraged creatine use by those younger than 18 because of this uncertainty.

Kids are using creatine to perform better in sports even though it's not recommended for children. CNN Student Bureau's Regan Bagnell has more (August 7)

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The supplement, widely available for purchase, has annual sales of more than $400 million in the United States, according to the study report, published in the August edition of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Until the safety of creatine can be established in adolescents, the use of this product should be discouraged," reads the report.

Several studies have shown that supplementary creatine can improve baseline strength in some adults, but no studies have shown the effectiveness of the supplement in people younger than 18, the study report says.

"Because creatine has not been studied thoroughly," reads the report’s text, "both the short-term and long-term effects of routine use, especially in adolescents, are of great concern. There are currently two documented cases of adult-onset renal failure with creatine use reported in the medical literature."

The study was based on a survey of 1,103 middle- and high-school athletes ages 10 to 18 in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City.

Creatine use was found to be more common among boys responding, at nearly 9 percent. Almost 2 percent of girls surveyed also reported taking the supplement.

Researchers say use was found to be more common among athletes who engage in weight training and participate in football, wrestling, gymnastics, hockey and lacrosse. But creatine use was also reported by cheerleaders.

Creatine use was found to increase significantly in 11th and 12th grades, approaching the rate of use among college athletes, according to study data. Among senior athletes, the rate of use was 44 percent.

Researchers say they believe a permissive attitude toward the use of nutritional supplements could lead to the taking of more dangerous performance-enhancing products or banned substances, like anabolic steroids.

"A consistent message of disapproval toward all performance-enhancing substances should come from the medical community," the study’s report reads, "to help the athletic community deal with the issue of performance-enhancing drug use."




• American Academy of Pediatrics
• WebMD: Creatine -- Nature's Muscle Builder?

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Updated September 21, 2002

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