Monday, July 9, 2012

Study Finds 17x Elevated Estrogen, High Progesterone + Reduced DHEA Levels in 65% of Ecdysteroid, Tribulus, Phytoestrogen, Phytosterol and / or Soy Protein Users!

Image 1 (Oliver Knöbel aka "Olivia Jones"): Not sure, but maybe the famous German drag artist Oilver Knöbel  aka "Olivia Jones" would be willing to buy some of your "all natural ergogenics"?
Tekin and Kravitz estimate the number of currently available "nutritional supplements" to be 30,000+ and if you want my personal estimate, roughly 30 of those are useful (Tekin. 2012). And while many of the other 29,970 supplements are often just dispensable, some are downright harmful or, as we have recently seen for alpha lipoic acid and zinc only beneficial for a certain, often sick, obese and diabetic part of the population (see "You are better of without alpha lipoic acid" and "Zinc supplements may cause insulin resistance & diabetes") and can - if taken in high doses or for long periods of time - become downright harmful for active physical culturists like you and me. The data Paolo Borrione and his colleagues from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Rome present in a recently published paper does now confirm that ALA and zinc are probably still the most benign among the "potent ergogenics" and "all natural", "plant-derived nutritional supplements" that are specifically marketed to fitness enthusiasts all around the globe (Borrione. 2012).

Believe it or not: "Natural" and "non-hormonal" can be worse than synthetic and hormonal

Image 2: In view of the fact that ecdysteroids are meant to turn the guy on the left into the nasty bastard on the right, the guys in this study should be happy that they got away with hormonal imbalances ;-)
In their peer-reviewed observational pilot-study (I am already looking forward to the follow up ;-) the scientists queried 740 trained subjects (420 body builders, 70 cyclists, and 250 fitness athletes) over a 6-months period on their use of "commercially available plant-derived nutritional supplements", which contained any or several of the following ingredients
  • ecdysteroids, 
  • phytoestrogens, 
  • phytosterols and/or
  • tribulus terrestris
To my surprise only 26 of those 740 experienced trainees (all subjects have been training regularly for at least 1 year, 1–2 hours per day, 3–6 days per week) declared that they were currently using respective products, with
  • In defense of at least some of the ingredients mentioned in this list to the left, it should be mentioned that it is not clear, if the observed effects were due to a single component of the supplements, due to several of the ingredients of an individual product or the highly undesirable and based on studies on isolated compounds non-predictable interactions. Personally, I would bet money that all three of these were involved, though.
    6 subjects consuming products that contained Caffeine, Citrus A., Zingiber, Guggul, Cacao, Naringine and Bioperine
  • 6 subsect consuming products based on 5-Methyl-7Methoxyisoflavone, 7-Iso- propoxyisoflavone, 20-Hydroxyecdysone, Secretagogues, Triboxybol, Saw Palmetto extract, Beta Sitosterol, Pygeum extract, Guarana extract and Cordyceps extract. 
  • 4 subjects consuming different dosages of a commercially available product containing Rhaponticum Carthamoides extract and (in one case) Ajuga Turkestanica and Rhaponticum Carthamoides root extract
for 6-12 months. The rest got at least a daily dose of phytoestrogens from soy protein products, some of which were enriched with Muira Puama and/or Guta Kola extracts - with highly detrimental consequences on the endocrine milieu for 15 (65%) of them.
Figure 1: Progesterone (ng/ml), estrogen (pg/ml) and DHEA (ng/ml) levels in users vs. non-users of "plant-derived nutritional supplements"; the bars for lower and upper indicate the lower and upper limit of the normal range, the figures on top of the blue bars are relative to the group average of the non-users (based on Borrione. 2012)
If your brain is not already malfunctioning due to too many "all natural ergogenics", it should be plain obvious that neither the 16x increase in estrogen, nor the 3x increase in progesterone are something you would be willing to pay money for. And that goes irrespective of whether you are a man or a women. After all,  these profound "hormonal alterations" (esp. the hyperestrogenism) could, as the scientists point out, lead to "severe health problems" such as
  • gynecomastia, hypogonadism and reduced fertility in men, and 
  • macromastia, enlarged uterus, menstrual irregularities and breast cancer in women.
In addition, hyperestrogenism represents a major risk factor for the female and male breast cancer (Heinig. 2002; Martin. 2003; Cederroth. 2010).

Taking DHEA or an "all natural" aromatase inhibitor will only exasperate the mess!

Image 2: Actually this post only confirms what I have been written in my previous post on "hormone optimization made simple and cheap". Avoiding all the natural and unnatural hormonal disruptors is the less expensive and healthiest way to optimize your endocrine system.
And while you could try to counter the reduced DHEA levels and the increase in estrogen by simply swallowing another pill (or a whole "stack"), I would suggest you better avoid all those totally natural, but by no means harmless test- or whatever boosters and suppressors of which Paolo Borrione et al. rightly state that they "have not been studied for long-term safety".

Contrary to the users in Berrione's study, of whom 45% did not even know all of the substances on the label of their supplement of choice you are now aware that the phytoestrogens, vegetal sterols and ecdysteroids are not simply not worth their money, they are more importantly not worth your health and should, just like the soy protein, which happens to be the one supplement that was on the list of every subject with abnormally elevated estrogen levels(!) never make it onto your supplement shopping list.

  1. Borrione P, Rizzo M, Quaranta F, Ciminelli E, Fagnani F, Parisi A, Pigozzi F. Consumption and biochemical impact of commercially available plant-derived nutritional supplements. An observational pilot-study on recreational athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jun 19;9(1):28.
  2. Cederroth CR, Auger J, Zimmermann C, Eustache F, Nef S: Soy, phyto-oestrogens and male reproductive function: a review. Int J Androl 2010, 33:304–316
  3. Heinig J, Jackisch C, Rody A, Koch O, Buechter D, Schneider HP: Clinical management of breast concer in males: a report of four cases. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2002, 102:67–73.
  4. Martin RM, Lin CJ, Nishi MY, Billerbeck AE, Latronico AC, Russell DW, Mendonca BB: Familial hyperestrogenism in both sexes: clinical, hormonal, and molecular studies of two siblings. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2003, 88:3027–3034.
  5. Tekin KA, Kravitz L: The growing trend of ergogenic drugs and supplements. ACSM’s Health Fitness J 2004, 8:15–18.