Many people practicing sports tend to use sport supplements designed to assist them in achieving their goals, be it weight gain or reduction. Several studies report that these food supplements may lead to endocrine disruption (ED) caused by contamination. It is essential to clarify that the endocrine system is represented by a class of hormones that transmit information from the endocrine glands to the internal organs, controlling a variety of physiological processes.
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In particular, in a female body, the concentration of estrogen varies depending on the state of the reproductive system and the phase of the cycle, and, with age, the secretion of sex hormones decreases and reaches a minimum by the onset of menopause. Accordingly, androgens, male sex hormones, are responsible for reproduction of men, secretion of metabolism, and the function of their nuclear receptors.
The paramount concern caused by the increasing use of sport supplement is that people regard them as a safe option since supermarkets and shops offer them as minerals and vitamins. In fact, both endo- and exogenous anabolic steroid compounds are prohibited by the General Food Law Regulation, yet the question with deliberate and accidental contamination remains critical. For example, pro-hormones, a large group of substances, tend to turn into mainly male hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, progesterone.
The meaning of their work lies in the fact that a large number of produced hormones in the body stimulate the development of masculine characteristics – increased performance, increase muscle mass, and burn fat. Side effects of increasing the level of male hormones are increased aggression, disorders of the central nervous system, as well as difficulties with memory and concentration. Another vivid example of the need to seriously reconsider the intake of sport supplements is associated with the anabolic androgenic contamination. A man taking them within four weeks was hospitalised with cholestatic liver injury and had to recover for 8-15 weeks, which shows the importance of continuous monitoring of one’s state when he or she takes such supplements.
It is essential to emphasise the fact that the most relevant way of monitoring the level of hormonally-active elements of supplements is to focus on the steroid hormone receptors. Previously, luciferase as a part of the Reporter Gene Assays (RGAs) was utilised to track the mentioned changes. Such a method allows studying both known and unknown hormones and their alterations that may affect the endocrine system of a person.
The study under discussion aims at examining androgens and estrogens, namely, their physiological effects, based on the development of RGA screening assays in order to reveal ED in sport supplements. The target population is composed of customers living in Ireland and purchasing these supplements on the local shops and supermarkets.
The results of the study show that the developed RGAs in combination with ‘QuEChERS’ extraction procedure proved to be rather sensitive to steroid hormones, both androgens and estrogens. In other words, the selected and applied method allows understanding the damage sport supplements may cause to the endocrine system. Nevertheless, this method cannot determine steroid precursors, which eliminates the opportunity to anticipate potential harm. The authors also state that the confirmatory method is required to ensure that the results are valid and representative with regard to the target goal. More to the point, the thorough review of the results illustrates that the integration of careening and the confirmatory method is the most beneficial way to detect ED constituents.
The confirmatory analysis pointed to the presence of bio-activity in supplements. In additional to synthetic EDs, some supplements contained herbal and plant ingredients that were responsible for the estrogenic response in 20 percent of cases. The mentioned finding means that some natural foods may cause ED, and the risk assessment should be conducted before purchasing and taking the products that are declared as natural. It was also discovered that the adverse impacts of EDs may include cardiovascular problems, infertility, carcinoma, et cetera.
However, the fact that the current study revealed that 70 percent of all responses were positive, which reinforced the findings of the previous studies in the given field. In general, the value of the study lies in its contribution to the method of examining estrogenic and androgenic hormonal responses. Namely, the combination of physio-chemical with biological techniques is most advantageous.
Although the key aim of the study was achieved, the authors understood that the data collected is more complicated than it was anticipated. For example, antagonistic and agonistic indicators were obtained in addition to partially-antagonistic responses. At the same time, some sport supplements showed hormone responses yet no hormonal activity, which allows assuming that they cannot affect directly on the endocrine system but may lead to the activation of either androgenic or estrogenic hormones.
These findings demonstrate that there are various sport supplements with different hormonally-active constituents that have different impacts on customers. Even though the extensive research was conducted on their impact, some effects remain unknown, which creates threats to customers’ health. Therefore, further studies should be performed with the aim of understanding this issue in an in-depth manner, including potential adverse effects, legislative actions, and ED of plant origin.