Legion Athletics and myself, Dr. Grant Tinsley, are excited to announce a new six-month study that will help answer one of the most common concerns about creatine supplementation: does it cause hair loss?
Specifically, the study will look at whether or not daily creatine monohydrate supplementation causes hair loss or any hormonal changes typically associated with hair loss, and it’ll take place in my research laboratory at Texas Tech University.
Scientists have studied many, many concerns about creatine, such as whether or not it causes kidney damage, muscle cramping, and so forth, and it turns out most of these concerns are unfounded (at least in otherwise healthy people). The main negative side effect people run into is some bloating or diarrhea when they take a lot of creatine in one sitting without drinking enough water.
In other words, one of the key benefits of creatine is that you don’t really have to worry about any negative side effects. You can’t even say that about caffeine.
There is one potentially negative side effect that hasn’t been studied well, though: whether or not creatine causes male pattern baldness.
There’s very little evidence to support this idea, but one study conducted by van der Merwe et al. (2009) produced results that led some people to believe this could be the case.
In this investigation, twenty young adult males completed a twenty-one day creatine supplementation period as part of a randomized crossover trial. Before and after the three-week supplementation period, blood concentrations of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and their ratio were evaluated. The researchers reported that DHT and the DHT:testosterone ratio significantly increased after seven and twenty-one days of creatine supplementation relative to the control condition.
In the body, DHT binds to androgenic receptors on hair follicles in the scalp, especially hair follicles around the top and front of the scalp (where men tend to go bald).
Thus, elevated levels of DHT and an increased DHT:testosterone ratio are often associated with male pattern baldness, and so some people took these study results to mean that creatine supplementation leads to hair loss.
Although there are important limitations to this study, including the very short duration, it certainly raised eyebrows and made for some click-bait worthy headlines.
It is possible that “perfectly safe” creatine is secretly making you bald?
Well, that’s what the new study funded by Legion and conducted by my team hopes to answer.
Specifically, we want to answer these questions:
- Does chronic creatine supplementation increase DHT or the DHT:testosterone ratio?
- Can the findings of van der Merwe et al. (2009) be replicated in a larger sample and over a longer duration?
- Does creatine supplementation ultimately produce hair loss, or just raise DHT (or do nothing)?
- Are the potential fears regarding this undesirable side effect warranted or not?
The new study is a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial examining the effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on hormones and hair loss in free-living adult males.
Participants will take five grams of creatine monohydrate per day for six months while following their normal lifestyle practices (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.).
At baseline and six months after study initiation, blood concentrations of testosterone, DHT, and the DHT:testosterone ratio will be assessed. Additionally, photographs will be taken around the entire head and scored by a blinded MD/PhD dermatologist with expertise in hair disorders.
Finally, participants will fill out questionnaires so they can report any changes they notice in their hair health.
To our knowledge, this study will be the first to examine whether creatine actually influences hair loss and will provide solid evidence regarding whether habitual creatine supplementation truly increases DHT.
And in case you’re wondering, my team and I hypothesize that creatine monohydrate supplementation will not influence concentrations of testosterone, DHT, or DHT:testosterone ratio as compared to placebo. We also hypothesize that creatine monohydrate will not produce hair loss relative to placebo.
We expect that the results of the study by van der Merwe et al. (2009) were mainly due to the small sample size and short duration, not because creatine actually causes significant changes in DHT or hair growth.
But … we could also be wrong. Who knows!
Our hope is that the results of this study will contribute to the robust body of creatine research and ultimately benefit current and prospective consumers of creatine, as you probably are. 🙂
In the meantime, you can follow me and my research here:
Dr. Grant Tinsley