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Supplements are typically considered a safer alternative to steroids for enhancing bodybuilding results. However, those who use them may be exposing their livers to damage according to a study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.
Researchers found out that men who used over-the-counter (OTC) supplements for bodybuilding suffered a liver injury. The symptoms these individuals experienced were persistent in many cases.
The unpleasant effects observed were usually the result of ingredients that were not disclosed on the label of the supplements. Anabolic steroids were the main culprits.
Results from this research again emphasize the need for extra caution when using these products.
“Anabolic steroids should only be used under the strict supervision of a physician,” lead author Dr. Andrew Stolz said.
A threat to liver and well-being
Researchers used 44 men with an average age of about 33 years for this study. These subjects were participants in the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
All men admitted that they have been using bodybuilding supplements to improve their shapes. The research team observed that every one of the subjects had jaundice -yellowing of the eyes and skin.
About 4 in every 10 men experienced what researchers described as a “hepatocellular pattern of liver injury.” Roughly 6 in 10 had “mild hepatitis and profound cholestasis.”
Cholestasis is a condition that involves slowing or halting of bile flow from the liver.
Some of the men also reported other problems, including nausea and abdominal pain. More than 70 percent experienced generalized itching that necessitated hospital visits.
However, none of the men died or required a transplant as a result of liver damage.
According to the researchers, the ingredients listed on supplement labels were not the problem. It is rather the constituents that manufacturers failed to disclose.
It turned out that the supplements, which the men used, contained anabolic steroids in most cases. Essentially, they were unknowingly using substances they probably wanted to avoid.
There is no doubt about the potency of steroids for muscle building and performance enhancement. Their awful side effects, which include liver damage, are the reasons some people choose to avoid them.
“Patients need to inform their care providers if they are taking any form of nutritional supplement and should be especially leery of bodybuilding supplements, which may contain illicit or USA Drug Enforcement Administration-controlled anabolic steroids,” said Stolz, from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
In recent years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has intensified its scrutiny of supplements. It has a page on its website where it lists products found to contain hidden or unapproved ingredients.
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