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Risks of bodybuilding supplements

Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Sport and Fitness Supplement_shutterstock_112420199.jpgIn our village, a new shop has recently opened which is run by personal trainers and sells food supplements. The shelves are deep and full with various bottles containing products I have never heard of. This shop is well advertised locally and always seems busy.

I was interested to read that since 2007, sales of legal bodybuilding supplements in the UK have more than doubled to now be worth more than £20 million. This obsessive use of bodybuilding supplements has lead to some psychologists stating that this is a type of eating disorder. More men are striving to be more muscular and lean and taking any measures possible to do this.

Although supplements are legal, they are not without risks. They were originally designed to aid muscle recovery after workouts and to help boost muscle mass. However, nearly a quarter of men who take them admit to having them instead of a regular meal.

The use of these protein supplements has been associated with osteoporosis and renal failure. Experts state that protein supplements are not necessary and people can obtain enough protein naturally from eating meat and drinking milk.

Some other supplements containing androstenedione or creatinine have been shown to be associated with a higher risk of developing testicular cancer. One study even found that those men who took supplements had a 65% increased risk of developing testicular cancer compared to those who didn’t take them.1

Potential long-term adverse health consequences of taking androstenedione long-term in men include testicular atrophy, impotence and the development of female characteristics such as breast enlargement. Androstenedione is not available to buy from shops, but is available to buy over the Internet.

Men (and women) taking supplements need to be fully informed about possible dangers of taking them.


  1. N Li, R Hauser, et al. Muscle-building supplement use and increased risk of testicular germ cell cancer in men from Connecticut and Massachusetts. British Journal of Cancer 112, 1247-1250 (31 March 2015). doi:10.1038/bjc.2015.26

Author's Image

Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including www.patient.info. She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!
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