Please Note: This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness. Always consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner before beginning a new workout routine or trying new supplements.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the fitness industry over the past several years, you may have noticed a new phenomenon emerge. SARMs, more formally known as selective androgen receptor modulators, have been all the rage lately.
SARMs bind to androgen receptors in the body, mimicking the effects of testosterone, leading to increased muscle mass, greater bone density, and faster recovery.
They were initially developed as a way to treat muscle-wasting in cancer patients, which is why they’re currently undergoing FDA trials to be used for this purpose. It wasn’t long, however, until bodybuilders quickly caught onto the powerful effects that SARMs can cause.
Just how do SARMs work, however, and what are their alleged benefits? In this article, we will take a research-based approach to understanding SARMs, and their potential side effects.
How Do SARMs Work?
In order to understand how SARMs work, you need to understand what androgen receptors are, and what role they play in muscle development. These “androgen receptors” exist all over your muscles – your biceps, your triceps, your leg muscles, and organ muscles.
Normally, your body produces testosterone, which then binds to these various androgen receptors, scattered throughout your body. This signals your body to build more muscle, lose fat faster, increase bone density, and grow more facial hair.
With old age, however, testosterone production declines. There’s less testosterone binding to your androgen receptors, so it becomes harder and harder to build muscle and lose fat.
This is one of the reasons why SARMs are being considered as a way to treat cachexia (muscle-wasting) in elderly patients. It naturally mimics the effects of testosterone, with very few of the side effects associated with testosterone replacement therapy.
What Does the Research Say?
SARMs are currently undergoing FDA clinical trials, to ensure that they’re a safe and effective method for treating muscle-wasting in elderly patients, especially those with cancer.
Most studies agree that SARMs are far safer than anabolic steroids, and many studies have even suggested that there are no known short-term side effects.
1. Very Few Adverse Side Effects
One study, conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine, stated that SARMs present an “unprecedented opportunity” to improve physical function, bone density, and muscle gain, without any of the conventional side effects associated with testosterone replacement therapy:
“The last decade has witnessed an unprecedented discovery effort to develop selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) that improve physical function and bone health without adversely affecting the prostate and cardiovascular outcomes.
Researchers went on to state the following:
“SARMs hold promise as a new class of function promoting anabolic therapies for a number of clinical indications, including functional limitations associated with aging and chronic disease, frailty, cancer cachexia, and osteoporosis.”
Several other studies have replicated these results, and most research suggests that SARMs do not have any side effects in the short term. Longer-term side effects are still unknown, though.
2. Potential Cancer Treatment
One study, conducted by GTx Incorporated, found that selective androgen receptor modulators, otherwise known as SARMs, can be used to help fight cancer:
“Muscle wasting, including a loss of skeletal muscle, is a cancer-related symptom that begins early in the progression of cancer and affects a patient’s quality of life, ability to tolerate chemotherapy, and survival. SARMs increase muscle mass and improve physical function in healthy and diseased individuals, and potentially may provide a new therapy for muscle wasting and cancer cachexia.”
In other words, many patients undergoing chemotherapy struggle from muscle-wasting, and this often causes a downward spiral in which patients eat less and exercise less.
SARMs, however, could serve as a viable treatment (when taken with chemotherapy), to help eliminate cancer cells, while simultaneously reducing negative side effects of chemotherapy.
3. Help Treat Osteoporosis
While there haven’t been enough studies done to replicate these results, some research does suggest that SARMs may provide us with a viable treatment option to osteoporosis.
In older age, bone density often decreases. This can lead to serious injuries from a fall, such as a fractured rib cage, broken legs, or even a shattered pelvis, which can prove fatal to the elderly.
In one study, however, Japanese researchers found that SARMs drastically increased lab rat bone density, within just four weeks of administration:
“When S-40503 was administrated into orchiectomized (ORX) rats for 4 weeks, bone mineral density (BMD) of femur and muscle weight of levator ani were increased as markedly as DHT, but prostate weight was not elevated over the normal at any doses tested.”
In other words, the SARM “S-40503” drastically increased bone density, but didn’t have any of the side effects associated with “DHT treatment,” which is common for osteoporosis.
The researchers add to this:
“In contrast, DHT administration caused about 1.5-fold increase in prostate weight. The reduced virilizing activity was clearly evident from the result that 4-week treatment of normal rats with S-40503 showed no enlargement of prostate.”
Any doctor knows that an enlarged prostate isn’t good, so this research seems to suggest that SARMs could offer us a treatment of osteoporosis, without any of the negative side effects (such as prostate enlargement) associated with DHT treatment.
Benefits of SARMs
As stated, SARMs have numerous benefits, and when taken in moderate dosage, most research suggests that they’re safe. There are several different SARMs however, and all of them have slightly different effects on the body.
Here are five of the most common SARMs:
- Ostarine (MK-2866)
- Testolone (RAD-140)
- Ligandrol (LGD-4033)
- Cardarine (GW-501516)
- Andarine (S4)
The most commonly researched SARM is Ostarine, sometimes referred to as MK-2866 or Enobosarm in clinical studies. Ostarine has been shown to be very safe in clinical studies, and is well on its way to becoming an FDA-approved treatment method for cachexia in elderly people.
Other SARMs, while not nearly as well-researched, may provide greater benefits, however. One SARM, known as Testolone, or RAD-140, is known for being extremely powerful.
In fact, some research has suggested that RAD 140 (Testolone) is the most powerful SARM created thus far by scientists. This means that it could be a powerful treatment method for anyone suffering from muscle-wasting, either due to cancer or old age.
That being said, there are still some potential side effects.
Side Effects of SARMs
Despite most of the research suggesting that SARMs are safe, some people have raised concerns that we need to conduct more research on the long-term side effects.
In a recent article published in NY Times, reporter Anahad O’Connor stressed that many experts are warning consumers against the dangers of SARMs, for example.
“The long-term consequences of using SARMs are largely unknown, and people who purchase products marketing as them cannot be entirely sure what they are putting into their bodies,” said Dr. Shalender Bhasin, who works at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“We don’t know whether these compounds are safe,” he told the New York Times, “but we do know that some of them have side effects,” he added.
In addition to this, the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is a peer-reviewed medical journal published four times per month, recently released a report stating that many supplements containing SARMs also contain dangerous prohormones and other substances.
The report found that out of 44 products analyzed, only 52% actually contained the SARMs as advertised, and a whopping 39% contained unapproved drugs not posted on the label.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, SARMs present an incredible opportunity for elderly men and women suffering from muscle-wasting (cachexia), especially those with cancer or osteoporosis.
While much of the research suggests that SARMs are safe, there are still some very valid concerns over the long-term side effects of these new research compounds.
Many of the SARMs being sold online contain dangerous hormones, and according to a report conducted over a 6-month period, many of these sketchy salesmen are resorting to social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter to sell their fake supplements.
Overall, while SARMs may be used to help treat muscle-wasting in elderly patients in the near future, most experts urge us with caution, and suggest we wait for further research to emerge.
This content is sponsored by Jon Anthony.