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When it comes to hair loss, it can be difficult to distinguish the facts from the myths. This is particularly true of the phenomenon of creatine baldness. While many people believe it, science has not confirmed that creatine use causes male pattern baldness. That does not mean that it is impossible, however.
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among bodybuilders and athletes – linked as it is to increased strength, physical performance, and improved recovery. Yet, one study from 2009 drew a link between the substance and DHT, the hormone responsible for balding in men. And so, from here, the belief took hold.
Unfortunately, facts about creatine baldness are hard to find. And, with no studies yet providing a conclusive answer, it seems like this myth – and others too – will retain their appeal.
Introducing Creatine Baldness
Creatine, a substance naturally occurring in red meat and fish, has become one of the most well-researched bodybuilding supplements available. It’s relied upon to help build muscle mass, improve athletic performance, and speed up recovery. And yet, there may be a catch – and it’s one that is making people think twice about the supplement.
That’s the idea of creatine baldness – namely, the fear that creatine causes hair loss. It’s an idea that circulates often online and around bodybuilding message boards. Yet, unlike other creatine side effects, this is not one that is based on particularly solid ground.
So, does creatine cause hair loss? The answer is probably not. Here, we’ll tell you the facts. And we’ll clear up another of the myths around baldness and bodybuilding too.
Fact or Myth: Do Creatine Supplements Cause Hair Loss?
The notion of ‘creatine baldness’ began in 2009, with a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. In the study, researchers gave creatine monohydrate – the chemical name for the substance found in creatine supplementation – to rugby players over a three-week period.
They wanted to see what its effect would be on the sportsmen’s levels of DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, the hormone known to be responsible for male pattern baldness.
What they found was that DHT levels increased by 56% after seven days of so-called creatine loading (i.e. a creatine dose of 25g a day) – and stayed high throughout 14 days of a maintenance dose (5g a day). The DHT to testosterone ratio increased by 36% too – suggesting to researchers that more testosterone was being converted into DHT.
Creatine Baldness Myths: The Trouble with the Study
These results seem pretty conclusive, right? Wrong. There were some immediate problems that reduced the reliability of the study. Firstly, only 20 participants – college-aged rugby players – were involved, which is a very small number for a medical study. Secondly, it only lasted for three weeks, so the long-term effects of creatine were overlooked.
Thirdly, these results have not been replicated in studies since. This means that they are far from conclusive – and really not something you should yet be basing your life on. And, finally, while the study linked creatine to DHT (which you’ll hear more about below), this does not mean it is linked to hair loss.
So, creatine baldness: fact or myth? The truth is that it is difficult to say either way. No-one has conclusively linked the use of creatine to hair loss. But that doesn’t mean the link isn’t possible. If we can confirm that creatine boosts DHT, it may well impact hair loss.
Does Bodybuilding Cause Hair Loss?
While we are here, it is worth tackling another related myth, too. That’s that bodybuilding itself can cause androgenetic alopecia – or male pattern baldness, as it is more commonly known.
This myth has a less obvious source. This has not, however, stopped it from reaching the British tabloids – and even CNN. What it seems to be based on is the belief that, after weightlifting, your testosterone levels are higher. And, or at least the theory goes, the higher your levels of testosterone, the more likely you are to lose your hair.
What the Studies Say
Studies do seem to suggest that resistance training such as weightlifting does increase testosterone levels in men. For example, a 2007 study found that those who lifted weights three times a week for four weeks saw increases immediately after exercise. Similarly, in another study, both young and older men seemed to increase testosterone levels after sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.
However, there is no clear link between testosterone and hair loss. An early study tracing castrated men, to begin with, found that men with no testosterone at all did not appear to go bald. However, even men with low testosterone can suffer from male pattern baldness. And so, just because testosterone increases, it doesn’t mean that the chances of hair loss do too. That’s because hair loss is not caused by testosterone, but by the sensitivity of your hair follicles to DHT – a hormone that is produced from testosterone.
Simply enough, there is no evidence that links testosterone to that genetic sensitivity. So, you’re all good.
Bodybuilding causes baldness: fact or myth? This theory is based on a number of tenuous links, links that aren’t actually scientific. While evidence is lacking to give a totally conclusive answer, in this case myth is much more likely than fact.
Fact: What Really Causes Hair Loss
Myths surround the problem of hair loss for a simple reason. So, few people know the real science behind it – and inaccuracies and speculations fill the gap.
Yet, the truth about hair loss is simple. Rather than recreational pursuits or lifestyle choices, male pattern baldness is caused by one thing: the genetic sensitivity of your hair follicles to DHT.
Now, we’ve mentioned DHT before. It’s a male hormone – an androgen – that is produced in the body through the metabolism of testosterone. While it is hugely useful as we grow up, in many of us our hair follicles are sensitive to it. This means that the hormone causes the follicles to shrink and weaken, ultimately preventing further hair growth.
Hair loss treatments such as Finasteride work to lower the levels of DHT in your system. This drug has been studied and approved to have DHT blocking effects.
The problem with the myth of creatine baldness, however, is that we do not know whether the supplement does increase DHT levels after all. If studies show that it does, it may not be a myth at all.
Key Takeaways: Creatine Baldness Facts & Myths
Male pattern baldness is plagued by myths and misunderstandings – and it is often difficult to discern the facts in their midst. Having the right information, from the right sources, however, is key to battling the condition.
When it comes to creatine baldness, there is not enough evidence to say whether it’s a fact or a myth at all. More research is needed into the supplement’s effect on DHT.