Life without calcium would not be possible. Calcium is an indispensable regulator of many essential biochemical processes. The cellular behaviors regulated by calcium range from the reading of genes to produce cellular components to the activating of all forms of cellular movement, including muscle contraction. In fact, creatine makes muscle contraction more efficient by increasing the availability of calcium.
Bones and Teeth are Calcium Reservoirs
Nearly all (99%) of our entire calcium allotment resides within the structural matrix of bones and teeth. As such, our bones serve as a reserve source of calcium in moments of dietary deficiency. This function of bones is principally under the control of two hormones, one vitamin and stomach acid:
- First, parathyroid hormone prompts bones to release calcium into the blood stream, weakening their internal structure at the expense of providing calcium for global cellular needs.
- Calcitonin, on the other hand, is a hormone that causes bones to absorb calcium (when available) from the blood stream.
- Vitamin D plays a role in calcium acquisition by increasing the amount of calcium that is transported across the intestinal wall into the blood stream.
- Stomach acid also promotes calcium absorption into the blood stream. Stomach acid ionizes calcium, increasing its solubility and accentuating its transport across the intestinal wall.
Calcium Insufficiency Weakens Bones
Calcium insufficiency results in bone frailty, a condition known as osteoporosis (porous bone). Ironically, an age-related decline in stomach acid production contributes to the predominance of osteoporosis in the elderly by slowing calcium absorption into the blood stream (see last point above). To complicate matters further, caffeine’s diuretic nature also diminishes the amount of calcium that is available for absorption from the intestine by increasing the rate of its excretion from the body. The elderly, especially women, should avoid heavy caffeine consumption due to its adverse effect on calcium uptake from the digestive tract.
Calcium Transport Consumes Creatine Energy
Mechanistically, calcium absorption recruits the activity of special transporters (Calcium-ATPases) on the surface of the cells forming the intestinal-blood barrier. These transporters use energy (derived from creatine) to actively pump calcium into the blood stream from the intestinal compartment. It was thus a logical assumption that creatine availability should also influence the efficiency of calcium transport from the intestinal space into the blood stream. And indeed, this turned out to be the case. Several studies have shown that creatine augments calcium transport across isolated preparations of intestinal membranes by fueling the activity of these calcium transporters. What remains to be shown is that ingested creatine has this same calcium-pumping effect in the guts of alive animals. Nonetheless, via such a mechanism, creatine supplementation should benefit those at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Learn about other benefits of creatine supplementation for the elderly at the following links:
In the last series of posts I gave three examples where creatine supplementation would promote bone strength. This is an important effect since muscle and bone strength must increase in parallel for optimal athletic performance. In the first post I showed that the increased levels of muscular force afforded by creatine supplementation serves to stimulate bone fortification. Secondly, I gave evidence that creatine itself serves as an anabolic stimulus for the creation of new bone. That is, the mere exposure of bone cells to creatine, even in the absence of mechanical stimulation by muscles, stimulates them to produce bone matrix. This mineralization process, however, relies largely on the presence of calcium. Therefore, in today’s post I discussed a physiological mechanism whereby creatine supplementation may augment calcium absorption from the digestive tract into the blood stream. Calcium availability is often the bottleneck in bone maintenance in the elderly and in certain diseases. I therefore suggest that the elderly take proactive measures to assure that they obtain sufficient amounts of creatine in the diet to help maintain bone health in later life.
How the elderly can best acquire dietary creatine is explained in my guide: