Creatine cures long COVID? Popular exercise supplement relieves lingering symptoms

NOVI SAD, Serbia — A new study suggests that creatine, a popular over-the-counter supplement for enhancing athletic performance, could also help alleviate symptoms of long COVID. Conducted by the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, the trial found that patients experienced significant relief from symptoms like general fatigue, loss of taste, and breathing difficulties after taking creatine for six months.

Creatine induced a significant reduction in general fatigue after three months of use compared to baseline values, while the scores for reduced motivation worsened after six months in the placebo group. Essentially, people who took creatine felt less tired and saw an improvement in symptoms related to long COVID.

To explain the science, creatine is an amino acid essential for brain and muscle health. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in our bodies. Creatine plays a crucial role in generating energy for muscles and brain cells, which might explain its effectiveness in treating symptoms like fatigue and difficulty in concentrating.

three containers of protein powder
Photo by Aleksander Saks from Unsplash

The study focused on 12 individuals suffering from long COVID. Half of them received a placebo — a substance with no therapeutic effect — while the other half took four grams of creatine supplements daily for six months. The participants were checked at three-month and six-month intervals, and those who took creatine exhibited higher levels of the amino acid in their leg muscles and brains.

Moreover, researchers noted improvements in various symptoms commonly associated with long-term fatigue following a COVID-19 infection, such as discomfort in the lungs, overall body aches, and difficulties in focusing.

Importantly, the study found that creatine did not lead to any major side-effects. The research team recommends it as a safe and effective intervention to tackle post-COVID-19 fatigue syndrome. However, they also caution that more research is necessary.

“Endorsing creatine might be of great importance in tackling this prevalent condition, but additional studies are warranted to confirm our findings in various post-COVID-19 cohorts,” says corresponding author Sergej M. Ostojic, MD, PhD, of the University of Novi Sad, in a media release.

This promising discovery could offer an additional treatment option for those struggling with lingering symptoms of COVID-19, particularly as the supplement is easily accessible and available over the counter.

The study is published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition.

Long COVID has 7 persistent symptoms

COVID researchers have been studying long COVID for almost as long as the viral itself. While some teams have identified more than 200 symptoms with a link to long COVID, one study argues there are typically only seven which patients persistently experience for weeks, months, and possibly years.

The seven long COVID symptoms are:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hair loss
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Obesity

“Despite an overwhelming number of long COVID symptoms previously reported by other studies, we only found a few symptoms specifically related to an infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” says corresponding author Chi-Ren Shyu, director of the MU Institute for Data Science and Informatics, in a university release.

South West News Service writer Jim Leffman contributed to this report.

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