In a new study researchers tested 44 products marketed as non-steroidal selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) and found that only about half contained ingredients advertised on the labels.
“Our findings show that people should be extremely careful about using these unapproved drugs purchased over the internet not only because these drugs can have harmful effects on their health, but also because the labels cannot be trusted and many products may contain other chemicals not listed on the label whose safety is unknown,” said researcher Dr. Shalender Bhasin, who was involved in the study published in the medical journal JAMA.
As pharmaceutical drugs SARMs can help build muscle by mimicking the effect of testosterone. They were initially developed to treat functional limitations associated with aging and muscle-wasting disorders.The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved SARMs to treat these medical problems.
Banned in sports
SARMS, like anabolic steroids, are banned in sports under rules outlined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The FDA has warned that SARMs in bodybuilding products can cause life-threatening side-effects such as heart attacks, strokes and severe liver damage.
Bhasin and colleagues found only about half of the 44 products they bought online to actually contained SARMs with 59 percent containing more or less than the amounts of ingredients advertised on the labels. One in four products contained ingredients that were not even on the labels of the products being sold via the internet.
As part of the study, researchers purchased SARMs online before testing the products using chemical analysis protocols followed by WADA. “There are serious potential side effects, and there’s this wide-held misperception that these compounds are safe,” said Bhasin. Some SARMs have undergone limited human testing while others have not, so their overall safety and efficacy remains unknown.
“Most supplement manufacturers are committed to ensuring quality and safety, but there are a few irresponsible and unscrupulous companies out there and their actions are putting consumers at risk,” said senior researcher John Travis of the NSF International, a global independent organisation that works to protect the environment and human health.
While the use of drugs was once limited to athletes they have over the years gained popularity among recreational weightlifters, adolescents and military personnel who are looking to build muscle.