Study shows Creatine helps negate liver damage from high-fat diets

Karen Kelly, Rene Jacobs and Robin da Silva Rene Jacobs, centre, with post-doctoral fellow Robin da Silva and graduate student Karen Kelly. Their research suggests creatine may help fight non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well as other negative health effects associated with high fat diets.

A collaborative effort between researchers at the University of Alberta, the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) and the Memorial University of Newfoundland has shown that creatine, a naturally occurring amino acid in the human body, may contain properties that help fight the onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) due to a high fat diet.

René Jacobs, Assistant Professor with the department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, co-authored a research paper recently published in The Journal of Nutrition, which indicates that ingesting supplemental creatine, can aid in the prevention of NAFLD, as well as preventing numerous other negative health effects associated with high fat intake, such as inflammation and oxidative stress.

“Creatine occurs naturally in the human body,” said Jacobs, “and can also be obtained through dietary means from things like meat, fish and dairy products. However, it’s also available as a supplement in any health-food store, and it’s reasonably inexpensive.”

The rodent study involved a control group, who were fed a regular diet with 35 per cent of calories coming from fat, and two test groups. One that was fed an extremely high-fat diet with over 70 per cent of their calories coming from fat, and another that was fed the identical high-fat diet supplemented with creatine.  Findings indicated that the creatine supplementation prevented the increase in liver fat stores that normally occur after ingesting a high fat diet.

“We have being studying the metabolism of creatine for a long time and wondered whether supplementation would have a beneficial effect in the liver. We thought that it would increase transport of fat from the liver. That wasn’t exactly what we found, but, of course, that’s why we do the experiments,” said Jacobs. 

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the most common chronic liver diseases in the world and can result in a myriad of other health issues, including insulin resistance, type II diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

Jacobs is quick to point out that, despite these encouraging results, his findings do not suggest that people can or should start eating with impunity, citing the evidence that high-fat diets have health consequences that go beyond simply affecting the liver.  

“This is, by no means, some kind of silver bullet that allows people to eat excessive amounts of saturated fat without any health risks,” he said. “High fat diets lead to issues like heart disease and stroke. This does suggest, however, that supplemental creatine, combined with a healthy lifestyle, could lead to some significant improvements in people’s overall liver health.”