Depression may be improved by creatine supplements. Preliminary studies are showing it to have protective effects against, as well as an ability to treat, the symptoms of depression. This might be due to the fact that it increases Adenosine triphosphate or ATP. This is an indication of how well brain cells are working or metabolizing energy. In short, creatine speeds up cellular metabolism within brain cells. Studies show that after taking creatine the brain is better able to use primary brain fuel oxygen (45), so it functions better. This is important as there is a growing body of scientific evidence that depressed people’s brains don’t metabolize energy in the same way that non-depressed people’s brains do (28). Studies using functional brain imagine (positron and single photon emission tomography or PET scans) have shown that the brains of depressed people often have diminished blood flow and metabolism. Specifically, in the frontal lobes and the basal ganglia. In one study of depression and creatine, which used measures of creatine in spinal flued, it was found that those subjects who were depressed, and expressed a desire to commit suicide, also had lower levels of creatine in their spinal fluid (28).
Regarding anxiety, in a study of people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder or GAD, but no childhood trauma, it was found to have reduced levels of total creatine in the cerebral white matter or brain tissue (28). A similar level of low creatine was found in a study of people who experienced panic attacks, but this time in the right amygdalohippocampal region of the brain. And, another study of panic disorder found creatine levels to be asymmetrical, with more phosphocreatine in the right frontal lobe than the left (28). In an animal study, using both male and female rats, those rats on creatine, regardless of sex, exhibited less anxiety than animals not given it (46).
Creatine is proving to be an adjunct or alternative treatment PTSD: it is now being investigated as a potential treatment for post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD combined with depression. Further, in studies of PTSD, using a control group, it was found that subjects diagnosed with PTSD had reductions of creatine in both the right and left hippocampal brain regions. Preliminary studies on creatine for PTSD are showing some success. A study of PTSD, where subjects were treatment resistant (drug resistant), found supplements improved symptoms in both men and women. The greatest response was in those subjects who had PTSD and depression. So, there is some proof that creatine can be therapeutic for PTSD. Regarding anxiety disorders specifically, there are few studies at this point. One case study, on a 52-year-old female who suffered from depression, fibromyalgia, and PTSD, found that the subject had abnormally low levels of phosphocreatine and ATP. She was unresponsive to medications before creatine supplements were introduced. After daily supplementation of creatine there was a reported improvement on measures of depression and fibromyalgia, and a 30% improvement on an overall quality of life scale (28).
When it comes to creatine doses for phycological problems, it is suggested that using lower doses (5 g) of creatine may be better and have more bioavailability, in comparison to higher (10 g) doses. This is as larger doses may slow the absorption of creatine. Smaller doses usually absorb in about two hours. And larger doses can cause the saturation of target sites in the body, resulting in a downregulation of, or lowering of priority of, creating in the cells. Tissues that are lower in creatine before supplementation show greater accumulation of it after supplementation. Keep in mind that it takes about four weeks for creatine supplements to build up in the brain and muscle tissue (28). An example is an experiment in which people given 5 g of creatine a day for four weeks found that the subjects experienced a significant increase in total brain creatine. This was especially true of the following brain areas: thalamus, cerebellum, white matter, and gray matter (28).
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