"Andro" Supplements May Cause More Problems Than They
Over-the-counter "andro" supplements have become quite popular, particularly
with male body builders, for their purported ability to help increase muscle
mass, reduce body fat, and improve sexual function. Evidence, however, is
building that these supplements may not be all they're cracked up to be and that
they may even pose certain health risks.
In a study of 50 healthy men ranging in age from 35 to 65, scientists
examined the effects of supplementation in conjunction with high-intensity
resistance training. The 50 men were randomly divided into three groups: one
received 100 mg of androstenedione twice a day, another received the same dose
of androstenediol, and the third group received a placebo. All participated in
the high-intensity resistance training for the 12 week duration of the
What the scientists found was that changes in muscular strength and in body
composition were basically the same in all three groups, suggesting that neither
androstenedione nor androstenediol had the positive effects attributed to it.
Testosterone levels were similar in all three groups as well. Although the
levels in the adrostenedione group were higher than the other two groups after
the first month of the study, they returned to normal by the end of the study.
Scientists think that this is because the body regulates total testosterone
level so that if you are taking in a substance that increases testosterone, your
body will reduce its own (endogenous) production.
But it seems that these supplements are not altogether harmless. The
researchers found that the two treatment groups had significantly elevated
levels of the female hormones estradiol and estrone as well as DHEAs
(dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate). The most troubling finding, though, was that
the cardiac lipid risk profile (see definition below) worsened
dramatically in the groups taking either androstenedione or androstenediol
compared to those not taking either supplement. "Good" (HDL) cholesterol
decreased in the two groups receiving the supplements while it actually
increased in the other group. These changes in HDL cholesterol altered the ratio
of "bad" to "good" (LDL/HDL) cholesterol by worsening it in the groups taking
the supplements and improving it in the other group. The high intensity
resistance training appears to have been responsible for the improvement in the
group not receiving the "andro" supplements. The adverse changes in cholesterol
levels in the other groups, however, translate into a 6.5 percent or greater
increase in risk for developing heart disease.
These results should be of concern to anyone considering the use of "andro"
supplements. Not only does their effect seem to be minimal at best, they may
also have some health effects that users may not have bargained for.
Cardiac lipid risk profile: Measurement of total cholesterol, LDL,
HDL, and triglycerides, along with ratios amongst them, and assessment of risk
for developing heart disease based on these levels.
Broeder CE, Quindry J, Brittingham K. The andro project: physiological and
hormonal influences of androstenedione supplementation in men 35 to 65 years old
participating in a high-intensity resistance training program. Arch Intern
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