A new study conducted by investigators at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School asserts that the long-term use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) may severely impact the user’s ability to recall the shapes and spatial relationships of objects.
The study looked at 44 individuals between the ages of 29-55, with 31 having used steroids for an average of seven years. Each participant was asked to complete five cognitive tests that assessed a wide range of brain functions, including memory for shapes and locations of objects, memory for lists of words, reaction time, ability to maintain attention, and speed of information processing.
The researchers discovered that the long-term steroid users did significantly worse than nonusers on a test called “Pattern Recognition Memory,” where participants are asked to try to remember a collection of patterns that they have been presented on a computer screen. The scores on this test declined noticeably with the increasing lifetime AAS dose. These results remained stable in sensitivity analyses addressing potential confounding factors, meaning that the findings were unlikely to be attributable to some factor other than steroid use.
McLean Hospital Research Psychiatrist Harrison Pope, MD said, “We have seen a significant rise in AAS use within the general population over the last 20 years, and are finding that people are taking doses that are often 10 times stronger than those typically used in the 1960s and 70s. We are worried that with higher doses of AAS and longer periods of lifetime exposure, some people might even eventually develop visuospatial deficits similar to those sometimes seen in elderly people with dementia, who can become easily become lost or disoriented. “
What are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in the body. They were developed in the 1930s to promote growth of skeletal muscle and to develop male sexual characteristics. Body builders, weight lifters and other male and female athletes use them to increase muscle bulk, decrease body fat, and improve performance.
Healthy Alternatives to Steroids
There are a number of protein powders and nutritional supplements that provide some of desired results of steroids, without the negative side effects. Here are a few:
• DHEA is a hormone naturally made by the adrenal glands. Higher levels are associated with youth and vitality, and unfortunately production slows down with age. Synthetic DHEA, sold as a safe nutritional supplement, is made from the roots of wild yams. Research has shown that DHEA stimulates the production of growth hormone, improves cognitive function and bone formation, decreases cholesterol, is a powerful antioxidant, boosts immunity by stimulating killer cell activity, improves libido and slows aging.
• Acetyl L-Carnitine is essential for energy production and fat metabolism. One of its most important functions is carrying fatty acids into the mitochondria. This transformation of fat into energy provides almost all the energy your muscles demand. It also helps burn off fat so it doesn’t accumulate. Carnitine supplementation is valued in sports nutrition as a way to help produce increased amounts of muscle energy, improve muscle training, accelerate athletic performance, and raise the level of submaximal exercise. It is also used to increase stamina and endurance and provide resistance to fatigue.
• L-Arginine is an amino acid that has many functions. It helps build muscle mass while reducing body fat. One study found that giving healthy individuals low levels of L-Arginine prevented the loss of body cell mass (BCM) and an increase of body fat.
• L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in muscle cells. It is released from the muscle during times of stress (such as intense workouts) and dieting. This amino acid improves glucose regulation, immune function, protein synthesis, and promotes a positive nitrogen balance.
If you use anabolic steroids heed the warnings of this latest study. And if you know someone who uses them, please pass on this important information.
“Long-term Users Of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids May Experience Side Effects Similar To Those Seen In People With Dementia.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 20 Dec. 2012. Web.
26 Dec. 2012. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/254139.php
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