|Androstenedione is an estrogen precursor hormone produced by the adrenal glands and the stromal tissue in the ovaries and later converted to estrone in the adipose tissues in the skin and appendages. Androstenedione is produced in the adrenal glands and gonads from dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone and is converted to testosterone by several
tissues, including muscle and bone. The oral form of androstenedione is metabolized, by a single liver enzyme, into testosterone. Androstenedione is a 19-carbon steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands and the gonads as an intermediate step in the biochemical pathway that produces the androgen testosterone and the estrogens estrone and estradiol. Optimal testosterone levels give the body healthy red blood cells, a vital sex drive, rapid protein production, and a balanced immune system. It can also cause increased energy, heighted sexual arousal, and give a greater sense of overall well-being.
FDA warning on androstenedione
On March 11, 2004, the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to androstenedione suppliers asking them to cease distributing products sold as dietary supplements that contain androstenedione. The FDA's position is that andro supplements pose significant health risks. FDA concluded that there is inadequate information to establish that a dietary supplement containing androstenedione will reasonably be expected to be safe. In fact, FDA believes that these products may increase the risk of serious health problems because they are converted in the body to testosterone which is an androgenic and anabolic steroid. Below are some of their statements on androstenedione. (Sources: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/androqa.html)
Androstenedione is converted to testosterone and estrogen, and when taken in sufficient quantities androstenedione can cause masculinizing and feminizing effects. Androstenedione is considered an androgenic steroid precursor because testosterone is an androgen or male hormone.
Based on a limited number of studies of androstenedione's actions in humans and existing knowledge about steroid hormone metabolism and action in the body, FDA believes that the use of dietary supplements containing androstenedione may increase the risk of serious health problems because of their conversion in the body to active hormones with androgenic and estrogenic properties.
Potential long-term adverse health consequences in men include testicular atrophy, impotence, and the development of female characteristics such as breast enlargement. Women who use these products may develop male characteristics such as male pattern baldness, deepening of the voice, increased facial hair, and enlargement of the clitoris, as well as abnormal menstrual cycle and abnormal bleeding, and blood clots. Women may also be at increased risk for breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Children and adolescents are at risk for androgenic and estrogenic effects as in adults, for early onset of puberty, and for premature cessation of growth, such that they will be short as adults.