Pigs bulk up with sports supplement

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COLUMBIA, Mo. – A combination of creatine and sugar used by athletes as a sports supplement may also increase the rate of muscle growth in pigs, said University of Missouri animal science researchers.

In a pilot project, pigs fed a diet of corn and soybean meal supplemented with creatine and dextrose for 30 days showed a 10 percent greater growth rate of loin muscle than did animals not receiving these supplements. The loin muscle in the pigs yields pork chops.

Creatine occurs naturally in muscles, said University of Missouri doctoral student Chad Stahl. It is made up of three amino acids like the building blocks that make up protein. Creatine mixed with phosphate (phosphocreatine) stores energy in muscle cells.

Promoted as a muscle performance enhancer, creatine-based sports supplements are widely marketed. Annual sales in the United States are reported to be more than $200 million.

Creatine is not banned in International Olympic competition and should not be confused with performance enhancers such as steroids, Stahl said.

“With creatine, we are looking at an alternative to synthetic growth promotants now available to swine producers,” said Eric Berg, assistant professor of animal science.

Pork produced by such means may provide the industry with products that have appeal to today’s consumers seeking food labeled as natural. In hogs, about two grams of creatine are naturally present in each pound of meat, said Stahl.

“We are adding to their diet a compound that already is produced in their bodies. It is easily mixed into their rations and our study showed no significant differences in pork quality.”

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