This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
There has been a great rise in the popularity of energy and body optimizing supplements over the last several years, but very little evidence exists that they are as effective as they claim to be. However, that may now be the least of the worries for people who use them, as new research suggests that the increased usage of these supplements may help to explain the rising rates of testicular cancer in recent years.
Because there are myriad factors that may lead to cancer — including genes, family history and environmental factors — it is hard to account for all the variables. Nevertheless, rates of this type of cancer have increased significantly over the last couple decades, pushing beyond what would be considered normal.
Now, new research on this topic published in the British Journal of Cancer has shed more light on the situation, finding evidence of an association between men who take muscle-building supplements and the likelihood of developing testicular cancer.
For their study, researchers from Yale University conducted a survey of roughly 900 men in the northeastern United States, asking them about their habits (which included not just supplement use, but smoking, drinking, exercise and other factors) and their family history of testicular cancer. Within the survey population, 513 of the men had not been diagnosed with cancer, while 356 had a positive diagnosis for testicular cancer.
The researchers’ findings were quite alarming, as men who took muscle-boosting supplements at least once per week for four weeks showed a 65 percent increased risk of testicular cancer. Even more compelling, when the results were further analyzed, researchers found that the risks increased even more dramatically for men who used more than one supplement, took them for more than three years, and for those who started using them before turning 25 years old.
How Serious Is the Risk?
While a single study doesn’t provide enough evidence to prove that these supplements cause cancer, they certainly add to the growing concerns about these products. Workout supplements are part of the more loosely regulated supplement industry, which does not face the same scrutiny and standards as the pharmaceutical industry. Although most natural supplements are perfectly safe and can provide many benefits, that is not necessarily the case, and in this situation the growing evidence against muscle-boosting supplements is powerful.
Alternative Ways to Build Muscle
The risks of taking muscle-boosting workout supplements — like creatine and androstenedione, among others — far outweigh any potential rewards. Safer products like protein shakes are a better alternative, but there are also plenty of natural ways to boost your energy.
Raising your energy level can lead to a better workout, and there are plenty of other ways to get this result too, such as eating better foods, getting more sleep, and planning out a good workout regimen. Regardless of what option works best for you, the dangers of taking workout supplements (which produce questionable results to begin with) are becoming far too great to ignore.