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7th EFSMA – European Congress of Sports Medicine, 3rd Central European Congress of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Annual Assembly of the German and the Austrian Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Austrian Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

26.-29.10.2011, Salzburg, Austria

Consumption and biochemical impact of some commercially available plant-derived nutritional supplements on athletes: a pilot study

Meeting Abstract

  • Federica Fagnani - University of Rome "Foro Italico", Rome, Italy
  • Paolo Borrione - University of Rome "Foro Italico", Rome, Italy
  • Marta Rizzo - University of Rome "Foro Italico", Rome, Italy
  • Emanuela Cimminelli - University of Rome "Foro Italico", Rome, Italy
  • Federico Quaranta - University of Rome "Foro Italico", Rome, Italy
  • Fabio Pigozzi - University of Rome "Foro Italico", Rome, Italy

7th EFSMA – European Congress of Sports Medicine, 3rd Central European Congress of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Salzburg, 26.-29.10.2011. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2011. Doc11esm217

doi: 10.3205/11esm217, urn:nbn:de:0183-11esm2177

Published: October 24, 2011

© 2011 Fagnani et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Over the last decade the so called “nutritional” or “dietary supplements” have gained a great popularity among all-level athletes. Beside the “traditional” supplements, a growing consumption of natural (plant-derived) products has been registered over the last years with particular regard for plant-derived hormones (ecdysteroids, phytoestrogens and vegetal sterols) and other substances with referred hormone modulating properties such as tribulus terrestris. The present study was carried out to evaluate the consumption as well as the biochemical effects of these supplements on the health profile of the users. A group 26 recreational athletes who declared to habitually use plant-derived nutritional supplements was enrolled. 30 healthy active comparable volunteers, who denied the use of any nutritional supplements, were enrolled as controls. Circulating hormones and circulating markers of organ toxicity/damage were measured on blood samples. The laboratory tests revealed the absence of any signs of organ damage in all the tested subjects in both groups. On the other hand, the evaluation of the plasma hormone profile revealed marked alterations of sexual hormones in 15 (65%) out of the 26 of investigated users, isolated or combined, while no alterations were found in the control group. Specifically, ten male subjects presented increased plasmatic levels of progesterone (0,8 ± 0,5 ng/ml with a maximum value of 2,1 ng/ml). Fifteen subjects presented with abnormal estrogen levels (363 ± 508,7 pg/ml), including 5 subjects (2 female and 3 males) showing “dramatically” increased values (max value in men 1535 pg/ml; max value in women 1235 pg/ml). Finally, two male subjects with increased estrogen levels presented also significantly increased testosterone levels (1650 ng/dl), associated with a complete inhibition of LH and FSH.

All subjects presenting abnormal sexual hormone levels declared of regularly consuming multiple dietary supplements, including “traditional” and “natural” compounds. In particular, those with abnormal estrogen levels shared the consumption of high dosage of soy protein (2 gr/Kg/die). Subjects with abnormal estrogen levels associated with increased progesterone also consumed products containing ecdysteroids. Finally, those with increased testosterone levels consumed both high dosage of soy protein and products containing and ecdysteroids and tribulus terrestris. The gas-cromatography analysis excluded the contamination of this products (randomly chosen) by steroid hormones. The results of the study suggest that “natural” does not necessarily means harmless and safe and suggest that the use of nutritional supplements by healthy subjects would be envisaged because of the potential long-term adverse effects.