Steroids: Seniors Deserve Credible Research and Real Answers


Read this 2017 update before you read my piece published in 2014:

I’ve followed the debates for many years now. The only thing that is clear in the steroid controversy is our sad lack of clarity regarding its long-term safety when used to treat the effects of aging. Having searched through many articles trying to find a definitive answer regarding what some have called “a fountain of youth”, everyone avoids definitive conclusions by stating, “but further research is indicated.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, when referring to his evolving position on the medical uses of marijuana, stated that valid research on the subject has always been stifled by the fact that it has been classified as a controlled substance by the DEA. Who’s willing to fund research? I’m guessing that the status of anabolic steroids as a controlled substance also prohibits a functional scientific dialogue from existing.

The main focus against steroids has usually been anecdotal evidence from extreme steroid abusers who made headlines. Some of those examples were consuming in excess of 100 times the amount of what the body normally produces. Try eating 100 times the normal amount of calories you need. We would conclude, by the same logic, that food should be a controlled substance; it can be highly addictive and too much can kill you. Extremes prove only that extremes are dangerous. Likewise, anecdotal evidence leaves too many variables unaccounted for to qualify as conclusive.

What evidence do we have that this dialogue should take place?

(Major Update 6/21/16)

“The evidence does not support increased risk of prostate cancer with testosterone therapy.
The evidence supports a major research initiative to explore possible benefits of testosterone therapy for cardiometabolic disease, including diabetes.”

Read the conclusions delivered at a major international conference:

Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2012 Jan 1;4:976-97.
Sex hormones, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Barron AM1, Pike CJ.
A promising strategy to delay and perhaps prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is to identify the age-related changes that put the brain at risk for the disease. A significant normal age change known to result in tissue-specific dysfunction is the depletion of sex hormones. In women, menopause results in a relatively rapid loss of estradiol and progesterone. In men, aging is associated with a comparatively gradual yet significant decrease in testosterone.

J Sex Med. 2007 May;4(3):558-66.
Canadian Society for the Study of the Aging Male: response to health Canada’s position paper on testosterone treatment.
Bain J1, Brock G, Kuzmarov I; International Consulting Group.
Testosterone treatment of older symptomatic men with reduced testosterone availability is increasing. There is an expanding body of literature to support such treatment in a large subset of aging men, but there has not yet been a long-term placebo-controlled double-blind study of several thousand men to confirm the efficacy and safety of this treatment as indicated by shorter-term studies. The absence of a long-term study has been used by governmental agencies as a limiting factor in providing full access and payment for this treatment in government-sponsored health care plans.

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003 Jan;51(1):101-15; discussion 115.
Testosterone supplementation therapy for older men: potential benefits and risks.
Gruenewald DA1, Matsumoto AM
Serum testosterone levels decline gradually and progressively with aging in men. Many manifestations associated with aging in men, including muscle atrophy and weakness, osteoporosis, reduced sexual functioning, and increased fat mass, are similar to changes associated with testosterone deficiency in young men. These similarities suggest that testosterone supplementation may prevent or reverse the effects of aging.

Effects of Testosterone Therapy on Muscle Performance and Physical Function in Older Men with Mobility Limitations (The TOM Trial): Design and Methods
Nathan K. LeBrasseur,* Newsha Lajevardi, Renee Miciek, Norman Mazer, Thomas W. Storer, and Shalender Bhasin
The gradual but progressive decrease in serum testosterone from age 20 to 80 [14–16] and indisputable evidence that testosterone supplementation increases skeletal muscle mass not only in states of health [17, 18], but also disease [19–22] and older age [23–26], have underscored its potential as a function promoting anabolic therapy.

Let’s look at the tsunami of change ahead that begs for valid conclusions from real science.

On its way to overtaking heart disease as a major killer

The World Health Organization ten years ago declared it an impending global disaster

A major health issue among seniors; being treated with antidepressants having side effects much more dangerous than anabolic steroids

Personal health care choices necessitate choices regarding probabilities. Let’s suppose that an elderly man who is frail and weak has significant mobility issues. We know that hormone replacement and exercise will add strength and muscle mass. Let’s say that this reduces his chance of a slip and fall incident by 70 %. Assume (we must assume, because reliable data is non-existent) that his risk of developing cardiovascular problems due to cholesterol issues increases by 30%. Now, let’s pretend you are this person and you did have this choice. Knowing the frightening statistics on hip fractures in the elderly due to slip and fall accidents, the choice to me is obvious. And from a health care cost/benefit approach, wouldn’t it make sense to treat the physical frailty with the highly possible side benefits of decreased depression and lowered Alzheimer’s risk?

In the early history of AIDS, before the development of an effective treatment, patients experiencing wasting syndrome–dangerous loss of body mass–were treated using injectable anabolic steroids to combat the effects of wasting. These patients lived years longer and with a much better quality of life as a result. In this group having extremely compromised immune systems and weakened organ systems, the use of steroids was the most effective way to sustain life.

It’s time to rise above the chatter and get to the definitive answers.

To Your Health and Fitness,

UPDATE: 4/4/16

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Categories: Aging and Steroids, Health, Steroids and Seniors


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