Androstenedione is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands and ovaries. It functions as a precursor to both testosterone and estrogen. Androstenedione (”andro“) is manufactured as a dietary supplement and marketed as a natural alternative to anabolic steroids, claiming to enhance sports performance and increases muscle mass. However, some studies suggest that Androstenedione supplementation may have adverse health consequences due to its androgenic and estrogenic properties. [1-4] Androstenedione has been banned by The National Football League, International Olympic Committee, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Due to the lack of proven benefits and the potential risks, on March 11, 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggested that manufactures stop distributing andro supplements.  In October, 2004, the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 was approved by the Senate and the House, and signed into law by President George W. Bush. As of January 20, 2005, this law is now enforceable. 
Androstenedione is not available in the diet; it is only available through dietary supplementation.
Androstenedione is used to enhance sports performance and muscle mass by indirectly increasing testosterone levels. However, studies have shown that Androstenedione supplementation in men increased serum estrogen and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) levels. Also, noticeable increases in strength, muscle mass, or total and free testosterone levels, were not observed. [1-4, 7] Other studies report that Androstenedione supplementation in women elevates both serum estrogen and testosterone levels. [4, 8, 9] All of these documented studies suggest that Androstenedione’s effects on blood lipid and hormone profiles may result in serious health problems.
Side effects or interactions may be possible during Androstenedione supplementation. it is wise to always inform your health care provider about the dietary supplements you are taking.
Dosage: Ranges from 25 - 900 mg daily; the most common dosage is 50 - 100 mg daily.
Delivery forms include; capsules, transdermal creams, gels, liposomal sprays, sublingual sprays, and sublingual tablets.
A deficiency in Androstenedione may lower levels of testosterone and estrogen. Decreased levels of these hormones are associated with a host of physical, sexual, and cognitive problems in both men and women, including; [10, 12]
- abdominal weight gain
- shrinkage of muscle mass
- alterations in mood and cognition
- decreased libido
- prostate disease
- heart disease
Large doses of Androstenedione may convert to the sex steroid hormones, testosterone and estrogen. The FDA warns that potential long-term adverse health consequences in men include;
- testicular atrophy
- development of female characteristics (e.g. breast enlargement)
The potential long-term adverse health consequences in women include;
- the development of male characteristics (e.g. male pattern baldness)
- deepening of the voice
- increased facial hair
- enlargement of the clitoris
- abnormal menstrual cycles
- increased risks for breast cancer
- endometrial cancer
Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to irreversible effects of Androstenedione, including androgenic and estrogenic effects as witnessed in adults, early onset of puberty, and premature cessation of growth resulting in short stature as adults. [3, 4]
1. King DS, Sharp RL, Vukovich MD, et al. Effect of Oral Androstenedione on Serum Testosterone and Adaptations to Resistance Training in Young Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. Jun1999;281(21):2020-28.
2. Broeder CE et al. The Andro Project: physiological and hormonal influences of androstenedione supplementation in men 35 to 65 years old participating in a high-intensity resistance traiing program. Arch Intern Med 2000 Nov 13; 160(20):3093-104.
3. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Questions and Answers: Androstenedione, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/androqa.html
4. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “FDA White Paper: Health effects of androstenedione.”, http://www.fda.gov/oc/whitepapers/andro.html
5. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Press Release: HHS Launches crackdown on products containing andro.” http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dma/andrlist.html
6. Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 http://www.nicemuscle.com/anabolic-steroid-control-act-of-2004.htm
7. Leder BZ, Longcope C, Catlin DH, et al. Oral androstenedione administration and serum testosterone concentrations in young men. JAMA. Feb2000;283(6):779-82.
8. Leder BZ, Leblanc KM, Longcope C, Lee H, Catlin DH, Finkelstein JS. Effects of oral androstenedione administration on serum testosterone and estradiol levels in postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Dec2002;87(12):5449-54.
9. Kicman AT et al. Effect of androstenedione ingestion on plasma testosterone in young women; a dietary supplement with potential health risks. Clin Chem 2004:49:167-169.
10. Mooradian, A.D., Morley, J.E., Korenman, S.G. Biological actions of androgens. Endocrinol. Rev. 1987 Feb; 8(1): 1-28.
11. Stoppard M. Family Health Guide, New York: DK Publishing, 2002: 303
12. Life Extension eds., Disease Prevention and Treatment, 4th ed. Florida: Life Extension Media, 2003.