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Questions Remain After New 'Andro' Study Release

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The new Harvard study was undertaken by Benjamin Z. Leder, MD, Joel S. Finkelstein, MD, and others at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In this study, 42 healthy men, 20-40 years old, were selected to receive one of two doses of andro or a placebo. There is no standard dose of andro. During the study period, the men's blood testosterone concentrations rose by 34% in the men taking 300 mg per day. There was no significant change in the testosterone level in the men taking 100 mg or a placebo. Their levels of estrogen also were elevated beyond what is normal for men, a situation that could potentially can cause feminizing effects in men, including breast tissue enlargement.

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 Yet Finkelstein says it is "too preliminary" to suggest that androstenedione be withdrawn from sale to the public or that it should be more heavily regulated.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.

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