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Study Finds Creatine Does Not Enhance Strength-Building Effects of Resistance Training in HIV Patients

Progressive resistance exercise training (known as PRT) can increase muscle mass and preserve physical functioning in people with HIV. In light of evidence that the dietary supplement creatine can enhance PRT-related benefits in athletes and improve muscle function in patients with muscle-wasting conditions, a recent NCCAM-funded study investigated creatine’s effects on PRT results in a group of HIV-positive men. The researchers were affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco and Santa Cruz, San Francisco General Hospital, Northern California Institute for Research and Education, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Thessaly (Greece).

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, outpatient study was conducted in San Francisco over 14 weeks. Half of the 40 subjects took creatine and the other half did not; all underwent supervised PRT three times a week. Muscle size, strength, and function improved in all 33 men who completed the study. The men who took creatine had a greater increase in lean body mass, but creatine did not enhance PRT-related gains in muscle strength.

In discussing their finding that creatine did not result in significantly greater changes in muscle strength compared with PRT alone, the researchers raised questions as to the ability of HIV-positive men to absorb creatine properly, possibly due to some HIV medications. The researchers also noted that the findings do demonstrate a potential therapeutic benefit of PRT in preventing or reversing muscle weakness in these patients.

Publication Date: 
February 26, 2009

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