In the Major League Baseball season of 1998, Mark McGwire became famous for breaking Roger Maris' home run record. Later it was found out that McGwire's power hitting came from a muscle building synthetic hormone called Androstenedione or Androstenediol. This supplement, nicknamed "Andro" became the first in a list of performance-enhancing substances called pro-hormones. The scrutiny of McGwire's performance was overshadowed by the fact that many professional athletes were using it. Also, this substance was not banned by the Baseball Commission. This compound is called a pro-hormone because it is a precursor to testosterone. It metabolizes directly into testosterone.
There are some differences between the -dione and the -diol version. In the former, there are two carbonyl (-C=O) groups. These groups are replaced by alcohol (-C-OH) groups in the diol. For the purpose of this work, which involves really understanding the post-chemical positive and negative side effects, we can consider both these compounds the same. The chemical formula for androstenedione (correctly, 4 www.bdchem.com/prod-e.htm" -androstene-3,17-dione) is C19H30O2. Its molecular weight is 290.45 (times the weight of a hydrogen atom or 1/12th of a Carbon atom). Its structural formula is presented in the following figure:
In the -diol version the double bonded (=O) are replaced by (-OH). This occurs by reduction (simply, adding of hydrogen by directly adding hydrogen using a catalyst like Platinum or Palladium or through a reducing agent like aluminum hydride). Physically, androstenedione is a white, almost crystalline powder; it is insoluble in water, but soluble in ethyl alcohol. It has a specific rotation of 196±2 " and a melting point greater than 170 "C.
Androstenedione is also naturally produced by the adrenal gland in humans. Androstenedione was first synthesized in 1935. (Hacker and Mattern, 1995)
Metabolically, natural androstenedione is made via cholesterol. Cholesterol is the precursor to all hormonal steroids, it is an isoprenoid compound fused with four fused rings, a short aliphatic chain, and a single hydroxyl group. Since the liver filters the blood, it is crucial that metabolism occurs here so that the steroids can be spread throughout the body more quickly. 98 to 99% of the steroids that enter the body become attached or bound to plasma proteins inside the body. Cholesterol is converted into Pregnenolone which is converted to hydroxy derivative 17-hydroxy-pregnenolone, which is then converted to Dehydroepiandrosterone. The next step is the formation of Androstenedione which is the last step before the body creates testosterone. The conversion of androstenedione to testosterone is catalyzed by 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, a process activated by luteinizing hormone and thus controlled by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. (Stalheim-Smith and Fitch, 1993)
Androstenedione is a potent sex hormone. Elevated testosterone levels also lead to increase muscle mass, strength, endurance, a muscular profile (Bhasin et al., 1996), and increased beard and body hair growth. Androstenedione in most men above the age of 30 engenders a difference in their sex drive, male libido, and male sexual performance. By supplementation with Androstenedione, most men's sexual performance returns to what it was at age 25.
Androstenedione, prior to its use as a nutritional supplement, used to be used as a prescription product for the following indications: It was used to treat male erectile dysfunction, boost testosterone levels in men experiencing decreased testosterone levels within their body due to cancer and/or prostate trauma. It is used by performance athletes to build more muscle mass via increased testosterone levels. It is also used by men who were suffering from hair loss due to a variety of causes.
A study conducted in 1962 by Mahesh and Greenblatt (8) reported that two female subjects who ingested 100 mg of androstenedione had dramatically elevated blood testosterone levels within 90 minutes of ingestion. However, this study did not examine whether the acute increase in testosterone had any implication regarding muscle strength or size. It should be noted that the elevated levels of testosterone within the subjects were sharply reduced within 1 hour to 90 minutes after ingestion of androstenedione and returned to normal levels after 90 minutes. Thus, this particular study does not provide sufficient data to suggest that androstenedione supplementation can raise blood testosterone levels in normal testosterogenic men. (Mahesh and Greenblatt, 1962)
Another study conducted reported no increased levels of testosterone in male subjects who were supplemented with androstenedione. Ten male subjects aged 19-29 years old orally consumed 300 mg of androstenedione while another 10 subjects consumed a placebo. The subjects underwent a resistance-training program during the study. The study was conducted for 8 weeks and was a double blind, randomized trial. No change in serum free or total testosterone levels were observed in any of the subjects compared to baseline during the 8-week period. Ten additional male subjects participated in an acute trial. The subjects either consumed 100 mg of androstenedione or a placebo after an overnight fast. Blood samples were drawn every 30 minutes for 6 hours. No change in serum free or total testosterone levels were observed during the 6-hour period. However, androstenedione concentration did increase by as much as 100% during the 8-week study in the subjects treated with androstenedione. During the acute trial, serum androstenedione was elevated by about 175% at 60 minutes and 325% to 350% at 90-270 minutes. After 270 minutes, the androstenedione concentration decreased but remained elevated above baseline. This increase in androstenedione occurred concomitantly with a significant increase in estrone and estradiol. King's study observed no significant differences in strength, lean body mass, or muscle size between the placebo group and the treatment group during the 8-week period. (King et al., 1999)
These so called beneficial effects would make "andro" attractive to males of different persuasions with (mostly) cosmetic, non-life threatening problems. Unfortunately, research has shown that the negative effects far outweigh the potential benefits. Also no short or long-term benefits have been extensively studied. However, aggressive behavior, mood swings and bad moods are commonly reported side effects of androstenedione. In addition, androstenedione has been reported to cause hair loss, blurred vision, acne, enlarged breasts, shrunken testicles, and rarely, liver cancer. A recent study raised concerns about androstenedione because levels of HDL cholesterol dropped in men who took the supplement for eight weeks. Since HDL is the "good" form of cholesterol that protects against heart problems, lowering HDL can increase people's risk of heart disease. The safety of androstenedione for longer-term use is not known. (Yesalis, 1999).
Since androstenedione can be synthesized into testosterone, one can probably assume that the short-term and long-term risks are similar to other androgenic-anabolic steroids. Anabolic-androgenic steroid use can affect the liver and the cardiovascular system as well as the reproductive system. Liver function can be damaged, resulting in jaundice, blood-filled cysts, and tumors (including those that are cancerous). Blood cholesterol levels often increase because steroid use changes how sugars and fats are handled. This and increased blood pressure can lead to the early development of heart disease, which can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. For males, production of naturally occurring hormones, like testosterone, may be decreased. This may result in shrinking of the testes, low sperm counts, and infertility.
Because anabolic-androgenic steroids are derivative of male hormones, female users may take on more male-like characteristics, such as broader backs, wider shoulders, thicker waists, flatter chests, more body and facial hair and deeper voices. The clitoris may enlarge and menstrual cycles may become irregular or stop. Steroids may also affect muscles and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. Tendons and ligaments may not strengthen at the same rate the muscle tissue develops. As a result, these tissues appear to be injured more often among steroid users. Also, for adolescent athletes, steroid use may cause the growth plates in long bones to close faster than usual, which can result in lower height. Oily skin and acne are also common…