08-09-2004, 02:13 AM #1
Why Researchers Want to Ban Your Supplements
Duking it out Over Andro;
Why Researchers Want to Ban Your Supplements
By Dave Barr
To quickly sum things up for you, supplements took a beating at the ACSM 2000 conference. Only a small fraction of the numerous studies done with supplements showed any kind of beneficial effect. To make matters worse, there was the realization that researchers seem to dislike supplements, and think that you; the bodybuilder, are a moron for using them. To illustrate, at a symposium given on supplements, a fight almost broke out between pro and anti-supplement parties! Can you imagine a bunch of 150-pound researchers trying to duke it out over creatine? Okay, that’s not exactly how it went, but things got heated to say the least. The discussion about andro was the prime example of this.
Why Andro is going to be banned
WARNING: The following statements heard at the andro talk will probably piss you off.
I must first say that I have no love for prohormone supplements, (despite their brilliant theory) but I was still shocked by what I heard in the andro talk. I should have known where the andro discussion was going as soon as I heard the ACSM statement on anabolic steroids (AS):
They MAY increase weight in SOME users, OFTEN in the form of lean body mass, and ONLY in the presence of proper diet and training. *
I figured it could only get better, and it did… from a comedic standpoint (if you find this kind of thing funny). The FDA representative began by listing the qualities necessary to ban an androgenic substance: 1) It must be a chemical 2) It must be pharmacologically similar to testosterone 3) It is not an estrogen, progesterone, or glucocorticoid. 4) It needs to promote muscle growth. He then went on to declare that criterion “number four is giving us [the FDA] problems [with trying to ban prohormones]”. I couldn’t believe this, they’re actually trying to ban prohormones right now, but legally they can’t. How’s that for an ironic twist? We normally complain about the North American drug laws, but in this case, the law is actually preventing prohormones from being banned! That is, until a single study shows the slightest bit of muscle growth from them. I wonder if the supplement companies would still be trying as hard to prove the anabolic effect of prohormones, if they knew that this was the case. Now this is what you should be pissed about; another safe and effective anabolic substance is going to be banned the second it shows promise. Great. Can you imagine getting busted for using andro, and being treated like a cocaine addict? That’s bull****! To make matters worse, the FDA rep also stated, “OTC steroids are a large problem for sports organizations.” I don’t really understand the logic behind this. It’s probably because prohormones are clearly the exact same as AS, which are, of course, seen as the root of all evil. Whatever.
The other side of the coin
Since this is an objective commentary, we have to examine potential reasons that prohormones should be scheduled drugs. During the talk, the list of potential anabolic steroid side effects was presented, implying that prohormones could do the same thing. I’m sure that everyone in the room ate that **** up, and were more convinced than ever that prohormones need to be banned. That list is pretty much invalid from a scientific standpoint, ‘though you shouldn’t expect most people to be open-minded enough to understand why (remember that AS/prohormones are the root of all evil). First off, you know that most of the potential side effects listed never happen with responsible drug use. Secondly, there’s NO WAY that prohormones are like AS in terms of their effects. We know that, but the powers that be don’t have a clue. It was even mentioned that dosages of 300mg/day are needed to see an elevation in testosterone levels (and even then, the results are still variable), but people still failed to see a difference between AS and prohormones.
So is there any reason that prohormones should be regulated (not scheduled)? Yes, here’s why. One researcher who started off the Q ‘n’ A session (quite angrily) by asking why it’s so hard to ban prohormones (a great start to be sure), actually came up with a big problem pertaining to their use; kids. We know that andro products increase estradiol levels, and the estrogens are responsible for cause epiphyseal closure, in other words, they stop bone growth. This means that there is a good chance that andro product could stunt kids’ growth. Can you imagine some poor 13 year old who’s 4 feet tall for the rest of his life, because he took a legal supplement (that was supposed to be safe) from off the shelves? Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that you shouldn’t **** around with things that you don’t know about, but kids are kids, and need to be protected.
Are there any other reasons that prohormones should be banned? Sure, if they can enhance performance. Then we should ban creatine and caffeine while we’re at it. You’ve heard the lame arguments too many times for me to go into them now, but the point is that there’s little reason to ban prohormones, whatever it is they do.
What’s the answer?
Ideally there would be great education about effective prohormones, and it would be illegal to sell them to minors. Of course this will never happen. No one wants to look closely enough at the issue to make this kind of logical conclusion, and even this course of action would have its’ flaws. The whole issue really sucks. It’s really a lose-lose situation; either prohormones work and we won’t have access to them, or they suck ass and we won’t want access to them. Ironically, once prohormones are banned, all potential research showing their safety and effectiveness will stop. The supplement companies are the ones who fund the studies, and why would they waste cash on something that they can’t sell? Unfortunately, things seem pretty cut and dried from here…
Another supplement problem
As both a researcher and a bodybuilder, I can see both sides of the issue. Joe blow bodybuilder will buy and swallow whatever he is fed from the magazines. Of course most of those magazines have interests in selling the reader supplements. What happened to Muscle Media is the extreme example of this. They started the brilliant marketing tactic outlined by Jay last month. Now, following the lead of Muscle Media, the reader is inundated with tons of pseudo-science, and that new marketing tool; references. Unfortunately to the reader, references mean fact. No one is realistically going to check up on these references, which can lead to some real bull**** being passed of as fact. A perfect example is the use of in vitro references to support the greater effect of diol vs. dione prohormones. How could they make such great claims when the supplements weren’t tried in living animals (NOTE: as outlined in my last article, diol did not outperform dione prohormones in humans)? Quite easily, since they never stated that the work was done in humans. How many people do you think were sold on the supplement because of that scientific fact? Great marketing, bad science. Supplement companies even go as far as referencing physiology textbooks to support a basic science point. This is probably the reason that researchers seem to despise supplements the way they do.
“Joe Blow put on 20lbs of muscle and lost 10lbs of fat in 2 weeks while using Creati-crap.” This single statement would lead to thousands of dollars in sales without a single reference cited! In this age of science in advertising, you have to wonder why people are so gullible as to believe ridiculous claims of a supplement advertisement. The reason is that they want to believe the ad to be real. We’ve all been there. Now a little skepticism goes a long way. Too much skepticism, on the other hand, leads to…
Researchers hate supplements? Say it isn’t so!
The supplement talk began with a history of weight training and was followed by Dr. Jose Antonio’s discussion of the current supplement literature. The room was absolutely packed, and it wasn't just full of researchers. There were representatives from gyms and supplement companies, as well as personal trainers and strength coaches. This seemed to be the recipe for disaster.
During the talk, one professor (let’s call him “Dr. G”) who happened to be sitting right beside me was furiously writing notes on everything that Dr. Antonio said, often with a sigh or a shake of his head. Finally I had to ask him what he seemed so upset about, and he replied that there were far too many generalizations being made about supplements. Later I realized that, as a researcher, he was probably looking for a ton of solid evidence before any such statements could be made. Too bad things don’t work like that. The problem is that Dr. Antonio wasn’t making and grand claims about the effects of supplements, just extrapolating on the findings that you and I already know. When the floor was opened for discussion, Dr. G went to the mike to vent. He angrily explained his points, stating that we were at a scientific conference where discussions such as this have no place. Although I feel that he was going way too far by that statement, you have to understand that this guy knew his **** cold. Not only is he a respected researcher, but I’ve never encountered anyone who knew supplement research like this guy (hence the numerous points that he made). After this, a representative from “the first scientific supplement company” (guess who) stood up to give his opinion. He emphatically stated that he worked with athletes and knew that supplements worked. He even went so far as to claim Dr. G had clearly never been in a gym or used creatine in his life. Whoa. That was totally uncalled for. I understand that he felt as though someone with little practical knowledge was attacking his livelihood, but Dr. G did give his points based on current evidence, not supplement company hype. Based on the insult, Dr. G was seriously pissed and the two met nose to nose while arguing away from the mike (offers to do something outside were presented). They eventually went their separate ways without any physical conflict, but the damage was done. Now the room was then divided into hardcore supplement promoters, and anti-supplement researchers. Then there was me, stuck in the middle.
What did I learn (the take home message)?
First off, I learned from a lengthy discussion that Dr. Antonio is a really cool guy. As a bodybuilder I learned that if something can’t be proven by ten perfectly executed studies, it probably won’t mean anything to researchers. As a researcher I learned that supplement companies would do anything (including outright lying) to promote their product. Just look in any mag to see some of the lengthy advertising “articles” that promote/compare supplements, to see what I mean. Fortunately, none of the big supplement companies resort to lying, but there’s still a lot of crap out there.
The researchers are probably overly closed minded about supplements in response to the pseudo-science with which people are inundated. The supplement company reps are probably overly sensitive to the fact that there isn’t overwhelming concrete evidence to support their products. The way I deal with the two sides is to combine the scientific evidence with the practical experience, and come to a conclusion. Now every time I read an ad I look for the references -to see that it isn’t just a text book reference for the sake of referencing- and carefully scrutinize what’s presented. Failure to do so would lead to everybody scarfing down boron, just because it has a reference to show that it works (of course that study was performed on elderly women, but how many people are going to know that at first).
I’d suggest reading an ad like it’s being presented at that ACSM supplement symposium. By doing this you can weed through the crap and realize that half of the stuff in the ads would get the presenter booed out of the room. Claims that a supplement compares to an anabolic steroid would probably get them kicked out of the building.
In conclusion, it appears as though a healthy skepticism is necessary to save us from exaggerated supplement claims, but taking this skepticism too far can mean missing out on some good products. For now we’re stuck between the endless propaganda from both extremes. In other words, as intelligent discerning bodybuilders, we’re on our own.
08-09-2004, 02:46 AM #2
You really are posting some good articles tonight.
08-09-2004, 03:51 AM #3
08-09-2004, 10:56 AM #4Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2003
Anything that remotley works will eventually get banned, its that simple.
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