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 Benefits and Risks of Androstenedione  
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Natural Medicine Research by . View all columns in series
Ray Sahelian Over the past few years, several hormones have become available over the counter including pregnenolone, DHEA, and androstenedione. These hormones are made mostly in the adrenal glands, ovaries, testicles, brain, skin, and other organs. These hormones are also very closely related. For instance, pregnenolone is the parent of DHEA, which, in turn, is the parent of androstenedione. That is, once made in the body, or ingested as a pill, pregnenolone can be converted into DHEA, which in turn can be converted into androstenedione. Androstenedione can then be converted into testosterone and estrogens.

Availability and dosage
Andro is available in health food and vitamin stores in 10, 25, and 50 and 100 mg. You will also find several of its cousins being sold over the counter including androstenediol, norandrostenedione, and others. Research in humans using these forms is extremely limited.

Andro is banned by the International Olympics Committee, professional tennis, the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletics Association. It remains legal in professional baseball, where McGwire's admission to using it during the 1999 season when he hit a record 70 home runs boosted its popularity.

Does Andro have any benefits?
Some body builders anecdotally report that they notice increased strength when they use Andro. Most take andro only on the days they work out. Others use Andro occasionally to boost sex drive or wellbeing. Those who are young and already have naturally high levels of testosterone or Andro in their body are not likely to notice much of a sex boosting effect. Middle aged and older individuals may notice the benefits more easily. A new, highly publicized study indicates that androstenedione may not live up to its hype. The study, published in a June 2, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association compared 300 mg of androstenedione with a dummy pill in 20 men ages 19 to 29 during an eight-week weightlifting program. Researchers found no difference in strength between the two groups of men.

Even though this study did not find obvious benefits with Andro, more studies are needed with different dosages, with individuals in different age groups, and also with women for us to get a clearer idea of the benefits and risks of Andro.

Side effects
Andro can have androgenic side effects when used regularly. These include acne, scalp hair loss, hair growth in women on the face, aggressiveness, and irritability. It can also raise levels of estrogen, something that could lead to enlarged breasts and an increased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Prostate enlargement could be a concern in older men. Long term effects of regular use are currently unknown.

Future potential
Doctors sometimes prescribe testosterone to middle-aged and older men and women in order to increase libido and wellbeing, along with possibly increasing bone strength. Andro, being chemically close to testosterone, may be an over the counter alternative. The dosage used for hormone replacement may be very low, such as 5 mg or less.

At this point, based on our limited knowledge of Andro, it is difficult to make any firm recommendations for its use. If you are planning to take Andro, either for its body-building potential (which is not proven), or its sex boosting effects (which not everyone notices), limit your dosage to no more than 50 mg, and take it only temporarily, that is, for a few days at a time. Have off periods of a few weeks or months between use in order to minimize any potential side effects. Supervision by a health care provider is recommended.

Ray Sahelian, M.D., is the bestselling author of books on Kava, Creatine, 5-HTP, Melatonin, DHEA, Glucosamine, Pregnenolone, Saw Palmetto, and CoQ10. New books include The Common Cold Cure and The Stevia Cookbook. See his web site for the latest updates on natural therapies, herbs, hormones, and supplements.

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 About The Author
Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a popular and respected physician who has been seen on numerous television programs including NBC Today, Dateline NBC, and CNN, and quoted by countless major magazines such as Newsweek He......moreRay Sahelian MD
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