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Androstenedione = Strength?

In 1994, The congress of the United States passed a law that prevents the Food and Drug Administration from monitoring food products, opening the door to the greatest increase in health fraud the world has ever known. As a result, millions of North Americans take androstenedione supplements that are supposed to make them stronger and grow larger muscles. When the world learned that Mark Mark McGuire, the greatest home run-run hitter of all time admitted that he takes androstenedione supplements, many young kids started taking androstenedione, even though no good data shows that it grows larger muscles or is even safe for humans.

In today's Archives of Internal Medicine is the best study published anywhere that shows that not only is androstanedione not effective in growing larger and stronger muscles, but also that it is not safe and has the potential to shorten lives and cause heart attacks. Manufacturers of health food supplements are not stupid. They know that they are unlikely to be sued if their product is worthless, but they can be sued if they harm people. This study confirms others showing that the dose of androstenedione recommended by manufacturers of this product does not enlarge muscles and does not make them stronger. However, at least one study shows that androstenedione raises blood levels of the male hormone, testosterone (3), and higher blood levels do help athletes recover faster from workouts to help them do more work and become stronger.

What would happen if a person took larger doses than recommended? He would probably increase his risk for a heart attack and early death because this study showed that large doses of androstenedione raise blood levels of female hormones, rather than masculinizing ones. When you take androstanedione, it causes the body to make fewer male hormones, so what testosterone you take, causes the body to make less. Worse than that, it lowers blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol that protects you from suffering a heart attack.

On June 6, 1999, an article appeared in the Prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association also showing that recommended doses of 200 mg per day of androstenedione do not enlarge muscles and it also showed that androstenedione lowers blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol to increase risk for heart attacks. The researchers note that "androstenedione is being marketed as a safe and natural dietary alternative to hormonal enhancement promising better sexual performance, reduced body fat levels and increased muscle mass." (200 mg per day of one of two testosterone precursors, either androstenedione or androstenediol.)

1) Arch Intern Med. 2000; 160:3093-3104.

2) JAMA June 6, 1999.

3) BZ Leder, C Longcope, DH Catlin, B Ahrens, DA Schoenfeld, JS Finkelstein. Oral androstenedione administration and serum testosterone concentrations in young men. JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association, 2000, Vol 283, Iss 6, pp 779-782.

4) Wallace MB, Lim J, Cutler A, Bucci L. Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone vs androstenedione supplementation in men. Med Sci Spts Exerc. 1999(Dec);31(12):1788-92.

Checked 9/20/08

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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