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Table of Contents > Articles > "Andro" Supplements May Cause More ...
"Andro" Supplements May Cause More Problems Than They Solve

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 study.

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 Med.2000;160:3093-3104.

Review Date: January 2001
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

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