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Questions Remain After New 'Andro' Study Release

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In an interview with WebMD, Finkelstein said the study findings did not conflict with the first study because of the differences in dosing. "The results are not different," Finkelstein says. "I think our studies are in complete agreement." He says it is too preliminary to say whether androstenedione is harmful, but notes that the observed changes in estrogen may lead to long-term health problems in men, affect growth in children, and hasten puberty in adolescents. Yet Finkelstein says it is "too preliminary" to suggest that androstenedione be withdrawn from sale to the public or that it should be more heavily regulated.

Finkelstein added he and his colleagues did not study the effect on muscle mass because dosing issues needed to be investigated first, an argument Yesalis soundly rejects, especially because previous studies have already tried to assess such an impact. Says Yesalis, "They had a responsibility to incorporate body composition and strength in their study design. If this had been the first study on this, I would not have had this complaint. But it's not."

Donald S. King, PhD, the lead author on the first study, also found fault with the Harvard research. In an interview with WebMD, King says he believes the testosterone increases seen by the Harvard team are insufficient to produce any anabolic, or muscle-building, effects. "Any positive effects of the androstenedione would be outweighed by the risks." King also faulted the Harvard researchers for failing to look at HDL, instead of just total cholesterol levels, which were unaffected. "I would like to have seen that," he says. He suspects the HDL would have been reduced in this study group, as it was among the men he studied. King is a professor in the department of health and human performance at Iowa State University.

"The one really sad thing about this, in my opinion, is that Mark McGwire's splendid or magnificent performance had nothing to do with androstenedione," King says. "There's more to hitting a baseball than how big your muscles are."

For Yesalis, there's also a message in this research and King's about androstenedione. "This is a drug and it is only classified as a supplement because of a loophole in [the law]. I don't know that it has any medical use whatsoever," Yesalis says. "What has concerned me and still concerns me is that any 8-year-old can buy this."

Vital Information:

  • According to a new study, men who took the supplement androstenedione increased their levels of testosterone.
  • Outside experts criticize the study because it failed to examine whether andro helps build muscle mass.
  • The potential negative side effects for men taking andro include reduced HDL "good" cholesterol and increased estrogen levels.
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