There are many potential reasons for hair loss in individuals who use training supplements. Creatine is frequently used as an 'ergogenic' training aid to enhance performance. Although there is no definitive proof, I'd like to outline why it certainly might cause hair loss in those with a 'genetic susceptibility' to balding.
In a study from South Africa 20 college-aged rugby players participated in a double blind study. Subjects loaded with creatine (25 g/day) or placebo (50 g/day glucose) for 7 days followed by 14 days of maintenance (5 g/day creatine). The researchers looked at serum testosterone and DHT levels at baseline and then at 7 and 21 days. After 7 days of creatine loading, or a further 14 days of creatine maintenance dose, levels of DHT increased by 56% after 7 days of creatine loading and remained 40% above baseline after 2 weeks maintenance. Testosterone levels were unchanged.
While this data does not prove anything about hair loss, it does suggest that the higher DHT could provide a negative impact on hair loss for individuals who are predisposed to androgenetic alopecia (male balding and female thinning). Not all studies have suggested a negative impact on hormone parameters. A study completed in 2004 suggested that creatine supplementation actually decreased the free androgen index after 3 weeks of use. A 2001 study of 11 men did not find differences in serum testosterone in men receiving 10 g of creatine. However, serum cortisol levels were higher after creatine use during the resting period.
We don't know if creatine supplementation promotes hair loss. One must at least consider the possibility that changes in DHT and even cortisol could have a negative impact on hair loss.
van der Merwe J, et al. Clin J Sport Med. 2009.
Volek JS, et al. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004.
Eijnde BO, et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299