In 30 seconds…
Creatine is a naturally-produced substance that is a source of energy for your muscles and is found in most people’s diets in red meats and seafood.
Creatine is a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders, used to boost performance. It can be particularly useful for vegetarians or vegans who might not get enough creatine in their diet.
Hair loss in males is often due to an increased level of DHT, a more powerful version of testosterone, that shrinks hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
One historical study suggested a link between creatine use and increased DHT levels which could indicate a higher risk of hair loss. However, this result hasn’t been replicated since and there has been no study directly linking creatine with hair loss.
There is not enough evidence to definitively link creatine and hair loss.
Let’s get straight to the point. The creatine and hair loss myth was born thanks to one 2009 study of college-age rugby players. Without entirely dismissing the study, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that even though it indicated that increased creatine consumption might increase DHT levels (the hormone linked to male pattern baldness (MPB)), the research never directly linked creatine use with hair loss. Furthermore, the study was small (20 participants) and short, taking place over only 3 weeks.
So why the big fuss?
Creatine is a popular supplement commonly used by athletes and guys wanting to look good by increasing their muscle mass. The same guys probably don’t want to have to choose between being ripped and being bald. Which is fair enough – we’re not all Jason Statham.
Hair loss being linked to any naturally occuring substance or supplement can make an attention-grabbing headline around the world, especially when it involves such a popular supplement as creatine. After all, whether you’re suffering from hair loss or not, keeping your follicles looking plush and your body looking fit is probably quite high on your agenda.
So it’s time to set the record straight. Does taking creatine increase your risk of hair loss?
Here’s what we know…
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule found in the body – mostly in the muscles and brain – that’s produced from amino acids. Creatine starts a chemical process which ultimately results in production of a substance called adenosine triphosphate (commonly referred to as ATP) which controls the energy for muscle contractions. Creatine is primarily made in the liver, as well as the kidneys and pancreas, and is stored in your muscles where it is used to boost strength and energy during activity.
Although a naturally occuring substance found in dietary sources like fish, milk and lean red meat, it is also a popular sports and performance supplement, most commonly found as Creatine Monohydrate.
Creatine is thought of as a safe supplement, as it’s generally fine to take alongside most other medications. The only people who need to take precautions are those suffering with any kind of kidney disorder or disease, as creatine could cause further damage when taken over an extended time period.
Creatine comes with many short-term performance-enhancing benefits, so supplements are commonly used for those wanting to boost energy and strength for short-lived activity such as high intensity training, gymnastics, sprinting or weight lifting. Creatine supplements are also thought to improve recovery time after exercise.
Alongside this, there is evidence to suggest that creatine might be used to combat more serious health problems, such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and other neurological diseases, as well as improving brain function.
Creatine Side Effects
Sounds pretty good so far, and although creatine can come with some side effects, they’re thankfully pretty rare. In the rare case that side effects are experienced, creatine users may have a headache and fever, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, or anxiety and fatigue.
Although everyone’s experience of taking creatine will be different, the most common side effect is water retention. This can result in discomfort and weight gain. Maybe not ideal, but side effects are more likely if you over-consume creatine supplements, so just be careful on your dosage – which can range between 5-25g per day depending on your situation.
Interestingly, hair loss is certainly not listed as a side effect of taking creatine supplements…
There are a few different causes of hair loss, which we’ll talk about later.
Is creatine one of them? No, probably not.
With all the research currently available, there is not enough evidence to directly link creatine and hair loss. While the 2009 study indicated an increase of DHT within subjects who had taken the creatine supplement, that is just not enough to confirm that creatine causes hair loss.
A lot of the “evidence” used to build the creatine hair loss myth is anecdotal. Hundreds of faceless comments on online forums swearing blind that creatine has caused hair loss in them, or their brother, or their uncle, or their mate from the gym who went bald after taking creatine once. Don’t believe all you read on it – especially stuff from unlicensed sources.
So if creatine doesn’t cause hair loss, what does?
What Causes Hair Loss?
The exact causes of each man’s hair loss will be particular to each individual, but usually it boils down to three things; age, hormones, and genetics. But not creatine.
There’s no easy way to put it, but age is a major factor when it comes to hair loss, with the hormonal process that can lead to balding developing as you grow older. As far as hormones go, it’s DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, that we’re looking at. DHT is a potent type of hormone, called an androgen, which is derived from testosterone. When stored in the hair follicles (the tiny root of each hair), DHT can cause them to shrink and will affect the follicle’s ability to grow healthy hairs.
Hairs go through 3 different phases: growth, transition, and rest. Too much DHT and your growth phase shortens and the resting phase lengthens, meaning the rate of hair loss overtakes the rate of hair growth. The result? Thinning hair and, eventually, balding.
Male pattern baldness (MPB) usually starts on the temples of the head, as the follicles there are more susceptible to DHT, before spreading backwards across the scalp. For some men, MPB can begin as early as the late teens, thanks to a hereditary predisposition to DHT sensitivity.
Millions of men worldwide suffer from hair loss, and the odds get tougher as you get older. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, over 50% of over 50s will suffer with some form of hair loss. While the vast majority is due to MPB, stress, poor diet, vitamin deficiencies, low testosterone, and other medical conditions can add to the likelihood of losing hair.