We may have to thank body builders for the next big breakthrough in the battle against Parkinson disease. Companies that market powders and potions to those obsessed with their glutes and pecs claim that the dietary supplement creatine changes physiques. However, the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) recently announced a phase III clinical trial examining the ability of creatine to slow symptom progression in people with Parkinson disease.
Although its body-bulking effect may be caused by simple weight gain, creatine is thought to boost exercise performance. Phosphocreatine donates phosphate groups to ADP, increasing the supply of ATP available in muscle, which allows muscles to work longer and harder.
Creatine is also neuroprotective. Klivenyi et al. reported that creatine prevented neuron loss but did not affect muscle weight in a mouse model of ALS. Zhu et al. reported that ischemia caused smaller stroke volumes in mice treated with creatine relative to vehicle. Ischemia induced less cytochrome c release and caspase activation in creatine-treated relative to vehicle-treated mice.
Creatine performed well in small clinical trials. Now NINDS plans to study 1720 people in the early stages of Parkinson disease in a double-blind study of creatine’s effects. This study, the first of a series of clinical trials called NIH exploratory trials in Parkinson disease (NET-PD), is slated to last five to seven years.