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Do hormone supplements work for weight loss or muscle gain?

Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
Certain hormone treatments promote an increased muscle mass, but they are potentially dangerous and should only be used under the care of a physician. Potent synthetic androgens (male hormones) such as oxandrolone (brand name Anavar) clearly increase muscle mass. The main medical use of these medications is in promoting an increased muscle mass in patients with AIDS or advanced cancer. These drugs have substantial risks. They often cause major psychiatric side effects and increase the risk of heart disease. They suppress normal testicular function and are sometimes chemically converted in the body to estrogens causing breast enlargement (gynecomastia). Some hormones are not androgens but promote an increase appetite. Megestrol acetate (brand name Megace) is widely used for this purpose, again especially in cancer patients.

Hormone supplements are less useful in promoting weight loss. Some synthetic forms of leptin are under study to promote weight loss, but are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Many people have tried using supplemental thyroid hormone to promote weight loss, but in most people symptoms of thyroid hormone excess -- jitteriness, tremulousness and cardiac arrhythmias -- prevent a person from taking enough of the hormone to lose weight. Taking excess thyroid medication is sometimes associated with atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heart rhythm that markedly increases the risk for stroke.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Judging by the size of fast-food meals and the number of X-rated Internet sites, Americans certainly think more is better. A number of quick-fix companies are trying to capitalize on that mentality by hawking extra hormones as the solution to all kinds of health problems -- from weight gain to weak muscles.

However, because our hormone system is more complicated than a calculus workbook, the more-is-better philosophy doesn't fly. See, you can't just turn on all the faucets in your house, ratchet up the heat, or turn all your switches on -- or you'll overload your systems and cause everything to go haywire. Any time you try fiddling with your hormones on your own with anabolic steroids or fixes for weight loss or other ailments, you're causing your body to go haywire.

For example, we often read about athletes who take androgenic steroids or supplements that get metabolized through to testosterone. This excess testosterone can lead to very aggressive behavior -- as in, don't give that man a gun or even an argument -- not to mention all the side effects like cardiovascular and kidney problems. If you do try to supplement your body with hormone replacement products, the best thing that can happen to you is that you'll just lose money.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.