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Still, Kraemer says he definitely wouldn't recommend use of andro in women and children, because it could cause masculine side effects -- the growth of facial hair, for example. He also suggests that there's a real question whether it's worth the trouble in men -- even in those who might benefit from a bit of extra testosterone. "Some people have thought about using it in older men, but the body tightly regulates testosterone production," he says. Which means andro might send testosterone levels soaring initially, but they would just as quickly drop back down.

That might make andro sound like a benign substance, but Wadler doesn't think so. He favors revising the 1994 law which essentially took the FDA out of the business of regulating dietary supplements, to make an exception for andro. "How many more people have to have adverse effects down the road before we say, 'We made a mistake here,'" Wadler says. "This is a public health issue."

Others favor an even stronger approach. "What needs to be done? The Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994 has to be repealed as soon as possible," says Larry Sasich of Public Citizen, a Washington-based watchdog group. Sasich suggests that handling problematic supplements in piecemeal fashion is like trying to reign in liquid mercury: Take one off the market and you can count on 10 more splitting off to replace it.

Vital Information:

  • Androstenedione, known as 'andro,' may increase levels of the male hormone testosterone, but scientists still do not know if it builds muscle.
  • Long-term adverse effects of the supplement are unknown and may not show up until years after taking it.
  • Women and children should also stay away from andro because it could cause masculine side effects.

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