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Though the research findings seem to indicate that anabolic steroids may help people who are bed-ridden or who suffer from disease associated with muscle loss such as AIDS, Deschere cautions against their use if similar results are found in humans. First of all, he notes that using anabolic steroids will not allow people to sit on the couch and begin to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also points out that using these steroids can have some very dangerous side effects, ranging from higher cholesterol to sterility to shrinking of the testicles to some forms of liver cancer.

Greg A. Rowden, MD, agrees and thinks the main use of this technique, if it is found to work on humans, would be in other areas of medicine. Rowden is director of primary care/sports medicine fellowship at the Methodist Sports Medicine Center in Indianapolis.

"In sports medicine we are casting fewer and fewer injuries," he tells WebMD. "[Steroids] could be useful in major trauma where many broken limbs require multiple casts for a long period of time. Maintaining muscle mass in this manner might be considered in certain wasting diseases such as AIDS. However, the health costs to the individual associated with possibly returning to work a little quicker, argue against using this in those with less complicated injuries."

"We are not advocating the use of anabolic steroids for therapy at this time," says study co-author Taylor. "Our results suggest that it is time for a closer examination of the possibilities for steroids to be used in a controlled manner for specific purposes. We do not want to portray the message that this will allow people to get bigger and stronger. That is not what the results show."

Vital Information:

  • An experimental study on rabbits shows that anabolic steroids can prevent muscle loss, or atrophy, in limbs that are immobilized by a cast.
  • Previously it was believed that anabolic steroids would not work with out exercise, but this study shows otherwise.
  • If anabolic steroids prove to be effective at preventing muscle atrophy in humans, it is important to note that there are some serious potential side effects, such as higher cholesterol, sterility, shrinking of the testicles, and liver cancer.

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