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Androstenedione is a hormone produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands, the ovaries (in women), and the testicles (in men). The body first manufactures DHEA , then turns DHEA into androstenedione, and finally transforms androstenedione into testosterone, the principal male sex hormone. Androstenedione is also transformed into estrogen.
Androstenedione is widely used by athletes who believe that it can build muscle and increase strength. However, there is no evidence that it works. Furthermore, androstenedione supplements may cause positive urine tests for illegal steroid use, due to the common presence of a contaminant (19-norandrostenedione). 1
Androstenedione is said to enhance athletic performance and strength by increasing testosterone production, thereby building muscle. However, in double-blind studies, when androstenedione was given to men, it did not alter total testosterone levels, nor improve sports performance, strength, or lean body mass. 2 It did, however, increase estrogen levels, an effect that would not be considered favorable. Curiously, some evidence suggests that androstenedione does raise testosterone levels levels in women; again, this is not likely to produce favorable results, and it could cause harm (see Safety Issues ). 3 The most consistent effect of androstenedione is to increase estrogen levels.
There are concerns that androstenedione, like related hormones, might increase the risk of liver cancer and heart disease. In support of this last consideration, there is some evidence that androstenedione can adversely affect cholesterol levels. 4 In addition, because androstenedione may raise testosterone levels in women, it could cause women to develop facial hair and other male-pattern appearance changes. 5 According to one case report, use of androstenedione was associated with loss of libido and decreased sperm count in a 29 year old bodybuilder. 6 While a single case report does not prove cause-and-effect, androstenedione's apparent ability to raise estrogen levels in men would be consistent with these symptoms.
Another case report suggests an...