Androstenedione is a substance some athletes use to cheat in the hope of it giving them a performance boost.
Androstenedione is an anabolic androgenic steroid banned by international sports associations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is also a controlled class C drug in the UK.
Androgen is the term used for any natural or synthetic compound that can interact with and activate the androgen receptor in the body. Androgens like androstenedione are synthesised by the adrenal glands, the ovaries in women and the testes ( testicles) in men.
Sources of androstenedione
Androstenedione is not something your body needs to function properly. It can be found in some meats and plants, but the dose used by sporting cheats is achieved using supplements.
The body turns androstenedione into testosterone, the main male sex hormone, but also into the female hormone oestrogen.
Androstenedione: Evidence and risks
Androstenedione is also a steroid precursor that claims to enhance athletic performance and boost testosterone levels.
In 2000, Harvard University researchers in the US found that androstenedione increased the amount of testosterone in men who took it for a week. However it did not investigate whether 'andro' helped the men pump up their muscles.
Not only does androstenedione increase the concentration of oestrogen, which can lead to breast development and impotence in men, it may cause abnormal periods, deepening of the voice and increased facial hair in women.
The potential negative side effects for men taking 'andro' also include reduced HDL 'good' cholesterol.