Is Creatinine Harmful To Your Health?

26 July, 2020
Creatinine can often increase significantly in athletes with high muscular activity, and in those taking creatine supplements. But can this be harmful to your health?
 

Creatinine is a waste product produced by the muscles. The kidneys work to filter it from the bloodstream, excreting it through the urine. If a urine test reveals high levels of creatinine in the body, it can be a sign of kidney disease. However, it could also be the result of taking creatine supplements.

Creatinine and renal pathology

As we’ve already mentioned, high levels of creatinine in the urine can indicate an underlying problem with the kidneys. However, in order to confirm this diagnosis, a doctor will need to run a series of additional tests, as indicated in an article published in the journal Nephron.

An excretion problem in the kidneys could cause a build-up of creatinine in the blood, thus reducing excretion rates through the urine. In order to measure creatinine levels in the body, doctors will usually run a blood test.

These types of tests are normally carried out when patients attend the clinic with a specific set of symptoms. Fatigue, swelling, or increased urine output can indicate an underlying issue.

Regular serum creatinine tests may also be recommended for patients with diabetes, or for those with a family history of kidney disease. That way, doctors can quickly rule out the possibility of kidney disease, or poor kidney function.

High creatinine levels and creatine supplements

In many cases, unusually high creatinine levels are found in athletes that regularly take creatine supplements. Overloading muscle deposits with creatine produces a greater amount of waste metabolite.

 
An athlete adding supplements to his drink.

In these situations, high blood creatinine alone isn’t an indicator of the existence of some underlying pathology, as stated in this 2019 study.

As such, serum creatinine tests aren’t always reliable when attempting to diagnose kidney disease. Due to high muscular activity, it’s relatively common to find increased creatinine excretion in athletes, including in those not taking creatine supplements.

Top tips for protecting your kidneys

There are a number of things you can do to help keep your kidneys healthy. The first is to keep a close eye on your hydration levels. Staying hydrated takes the pressure off the kidneys, and helps to promote renal health in the medium and long-term.

Frequent consumption of sweeteners can be detrimental to kidney function and health. In light of this, experts advise against the consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks. While sugary drinks can be harmful to the pancreas, chemically sweetened varieties can have an impact on renal health.

Another substance that should be restricted is alcohol. In addition to being harmful to the kidneys, it can also have a dangerous impact on liver metabolism and increases the risk of becoming overweight.

 

As long as there are no current underlying kidney problems, increasing your intake of fruit and veg is an effective way to prevent renal conditions. These foods are rich in antioxidants and minerals, which help to balance reabsorption processes in the kidneys.

This, along with their high vitamin content, is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to incorporate them into your diet on a daily basis.

Staying hydrated.

Creatinine: an unreliable indicator

While excess creatinine in the blood or urine can indicate renal issues, its presence can also be misleading. Individuals who exercise regularly or take creatine supplements typically present with higher levels of this substance in the body. It doesn’t pose any danger to their health – quite the opposite, in fact.

As a result, creatinine isn’t a very reliable indicator when it comes to our health. In those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle, a doctor will need to carry out additional tests to determine whether the high levels of creatinine in the blood are significant. They will also confirm whether or not there’s a problem with the kidneys.

 

When taking care of these organs, it’s important to remember the need for a varied and balanced diet. Avoiding substances such as alcohol and artificial sweeteners is essential. What’s more, it’s also important to try to stay well-hydrated at all times.

  • Delanaye P., Cavalier E., Pottel H., Serum creatinine: not so simple! Nephron, 2017. 136: 302-308.
  • Vega J., Huidobro JP., Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function. Rev Med Chil, 2019. 147 (5): 628-633.