If there is one supplement that everyone should be taking it’s creatine. While creatine is best known for increasing muscle mass and strength, its benefits expand beyond the weight room.
But many worry that supplementing with creatine will cause hair loss. The evidence to support this, however, is still a bit, well, patchy.
Here’s what you need to know about creatine and hair loss.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is naturally produced in the body from amino acids — the building blocks of protein.
Humans, on average, produce one gram of creatine per day which is largely stored in skeletal muscle.
It’s also found in animal products, primarily meats and fish. You would need to consume large amounts, however, to get an appreciable amount.
This makes supplementing with creatine a more cost-effective and efficient way to increase muscular stores of creatine.
How Does Creatine Work?
Creatine acts as source for quick energy in your body.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the basic currency of energy in your body. When your body uses it for energy, it loses a phosphate group and becomes adenosine diphosphate.
Creatine is stored as creatine phosphate in your cells. Glucose (sugar) is normally used for quick energy; however, there is a slight delay before the glucose is available to your cells.
Therefore, when your body needs quick energy, creatine lends its phosphate to ADP, which becomes ATP. This gives you the energy needed for high-intensity, short-duration exercises like a 100-m sprint or weight lifting.
What Is DHT?
The male sex hormone, dihydrotesosterone (DHT), give males their biological characteristics — a deep voice, body hair, and increased muscle mass.
During fetal development, DHT plays a role in the development of the penis and prostate gland.
Through the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, testosterone is converted into the more potent hormone DHT.
DHT is believed to be a major factor for male pattern hair loss as high circulating levels of DHT are correlated with a higher rate of hair loss.
Creatine Increases DHT
In one study, creatine supplementation was implicated in increasing DHT.
College-aged male rugby players supplemented with 25 grams of creatine (loading phase) for seven days followed by five grams (maintenance phase) for 14 days.
After seven days of creatine loading, levels of DHT increased by 56% and remained 40% above baseline after 14 days of maintenance supplementation.
Creatine supplementation also increased the subjects’ DHT to testosterone ratio, suggesting an acceleration of DHT production.
An increased ratio of DHT to testosterone has been linked with male pattern baldness.
This, however, is the only study that has shown a relationship between creatine and increased DHT levels and no study has replicated it.
Additionally, no direct studies between creatine and hair loss have been conducted.
DHT is linked to an increase in hair loss, but the evidence that suggest creatine can increase DHT levels is limited.
And while it’s unlikely that creatine itself causes hair loss, it may accelerate hair loss in those who are already susceptible to hair loss or male pattern baldness.
For those who are concerned, but want to continue taking creatine (or start), DHT treatments like Finasteride (Propecia) may help. This drug prevents the conversion of testosterone to DHT by blocking the 5-alpha reductase enzyme.