BACKGROUND: Since the passage of The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994, there has been a flood of new "dietary" supplements promoting anti-aging benefits such as the enhancement of growth hormone or testosterone levels. Androstenediol and androstenedione are such products. This study's purpose was to elucidate the physiological and hormonal effects of 200 mg/d of oral androstenediol and androstenedione supplementation in men aged 35 to 65 years while participating in a 12-week high-intensity resistance training program.
METHODS: Fifty men not consuming any androgenic- enhancing substances and with normal total testosterone levels, prostate-specific antigen, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, and with no sign of cardiovascular or metabolic diseases participated. Subjects were randomly assigned to a placebo, androstenediol (diol), or androstenedione (dione) group using a double-blind study design. Main outcomes included serum sex hormone profile, body composition assessment, muscular strength, and blood lipid profiles.
RESULTS: During the 12 weeks of androstenedione or androstenediol use, a significant increase in the aromatization by-products estrone and estradiol was observed in both groups (P =.03). In the dione group, total testosterone levels significantly increased 16% after 1 month of use, but by the end of 12 weeks, they returned to pretreatment levels. This return to baseline levels resulted from increases in aromatization and down-regulation in endogenous testosterone synthesis based on the fact that luteinizing hormone was attenuated 18% to 33% during the treatment period. Neither androstenediol nor androstenedione enhanced the adaptations to resistance training compared with placebo for body composition or muscular strength. However, both androstenediol and androstenedione supplementation adversely affected high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels, coronary heart disease risk (representing a 6.5% increase), and each group's respective (low- density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-C]/HDL-C)/(apolipoprotein A/apolipoprotein B) lipid ratio (diol: +5.2%; dione: +10.5%; P =.05). In contrast, the placebo group's HDL-C levels increased 5.1%, with a 12.3% decline in the (LDL-C/HDL-C)/(apolipoprotein A/apolipoprotein B) lipid ratio. These negative and positive lipid effects occurred despite no significant alterations in body composition or dietary intakes in the supplemental groups or placebo group, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Testosterone precursors do not enhance adaptations to resistance training when consumed in dosages recommended by manufacturers. Testosterone precursor supplementation does result in significant increases in estrogen-related compounds, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate concentrations, down-regulation in testosterone synthesis, and unfavorable alterations in blood lipid and coronary heart disease risk profiles of men aged 35 to 65 years.