Honestly, it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call this a study, but that’s what the authors claim in their abstract. In short, the authors did a google search for dead bodybuilders and then filtered it down using parameters such as being no more than 50-years old and dying of heart-related issues within the last 12 years. Initially they found 45 American bodybuilders and then identified a total of 14 that fitted within their parameters. From the names and locations of these 14 bodybuilders, the authors requested autopsy reports from the coroner’s office in each state. From these 14, they got seven reports, of which they had to exclude one since the cause of death actually was drowning. So, this “study” was based on only six autopsy reports. That’s not a lot to go on.
Dead Bodybuilders Speaking from the Heart: An Analysis of Autopsy Reports of Bodybuilders That Died Prematurely
J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2022 Nov 24;7(4):105. doi: 10.3390/jfmk7040105.
Before we move on, this little review will be based on the “study” in question and also on the article that caught my eye and referred me to this “study” in the first place, an article called “Dead Bodybuilders: An Autopsy Report” by Co-founder TC Luoma of T-Nation. The reason for including bits of his article is that he does identify a misconception or two, but then fall into that trap himself and simply makes a mess of things. Although the authors of the “study” and TC himself, keeps repeating the very important mantra of ‘association does not mean causation,’ that is pretty much all they end up doing anyways.
If you’ve been around my work for a while, or perhaps followed me since the mid-90’s, you know that I worked in this industry for over 20 years, coaching a lot of elite-level bodybuilders and athletes in various sports, and also worked as editor-in-chief for several bodybuilding-, fitness-, and sports magazines, as well as a freelance author, so I’m not some Insta-famous self-proclaimed trainer pulling shit out of my ass. I also studied and worked with evil Modern Medicine, Big Pharma, and the supplement industry for 17+ years.
First off, there is no debating that insane amounts of drugs, as used by most elite-level bodybuilders, will fuck you up in some way along the road. However, that is not the main problem, and we will get to that. First, lets see what these so-called “researchers” found out in their 6-subject “study.”
First out, the “researchers” found that the mean heart weight of the dead bodybuilders was 73.7% heavier than the reference weight of a man’s heart (575 grams vs. 332 grams, respectively). Further, the mean thickness of their left ventricles was 125% thicker than what’s typical for an average man. This is said to have occurred because cardiac muscle has some androgen receptors the same way skeletal muscle does, and thus respond to anabolic steroids in pretty much the same manner. And sure enough, from the information and understanding we have today, that might very well be true. Extreme levels of circulating free testosterone might saturate the receptors and make the heart grow over time, as it is a working muscle – and it will have to work harder and harder to provide blood and oxygen to an increasing amount of muscle mass that, in these cases, reached abnormal levels not possible without the assistance of said anabolic steroids.
Now, as TC points out in his article, a lot of athletes who have worked their bodies extremely hard for the larger part of their life, also have enlarged left ventricles, but in most cases, the enlargement is minimal and not dangerous. Still, that gives some credit to the theory above. The heart will grow somewhat to adapt to the increased demand put on it, as seen in all these athletes. And with additional circulating free testosterone, as in these bodybuilders, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to conclude that it will grow even more.
Our bodies are very adaptable and will do whatever necessary to better endure whatever stress and demands that are put on it. However, these adaptations are limited by our natural production of hormones and cell regeneration. Once you inject synthetic hormones and go above the natural limits, all these limitations and restrictions set by natural adaptations are thrown out of the window.
So yes, so far, we mostly agree. The heart will grow if we constantly challenge it, and it will likely grow even more than necessary if we saturate it with synthetic hormones. Still, that might not cause you to die, at least not as premature as before the age of 50. There are many other factors at play, factors of much more importance. And this is also where the “researchers” and TC, to a degree, falls into the trap of pseudo-science and actually pairing association with causation.
Now, the autopsy reports continued to state that 80% had atherosclerosis. That would be 4.8 out of 6. So, I guess 4 had it, one almost had it, and one didn’t? Anyway, they claim that steroid abuse has long been associated with elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
This is of course nonsense. What exactly is elevated LDL? Is that the lipo-protein carrier or the estimated cholesterol that has been delivered to the cells by the LDL? Because neither of these has never been measured in a lab. When you get a blood test and a LDL value, that is an estimate, not a measurement. It’s pseudo-science. And TC Luoma actually picks up a little bit on this when he mentions in his article that, “there is, of course, a controversy over whether whacked cholesterol levels even contribute to atherosclerosis, but regardless of whether they do or not, their clogged-up blood vessels might be the natural side-effect of hypercaloric intake.”
Damn, man, you almost nailed it. I would not say “hypercaloric intake” though, I would simply say that it is a side-effect of their “extremely shitty and retarded diet.” And we will get to that in a bit.
For more on the extreme misconceptions of LDL and HDL, including cholesterol that is vital for our health, please read these articles:
After that bomb, TC, as he usually does, falls back into pseudo-science and full retardation as he goes on and writes, “They likely ate a lot of meat – sties of pigs, herds of cattle, flocks of chickens – all of which contain a lot of saturated fat, which, according to popular belief, possibly led to atherosclerosis years, if not decades, before it might have naturally occurred.” Yeah, key-word being “popular belief,” as in pseudo-science.
At least he redeems himself a little, by covering all the flanks by adding, “this quest for calories might also have led them to ingest more processed sugars, trans-fats, and high-glycemic carbs, all of which are probably more likely to cause cardiovascular disease than saturated fats.”
Yes, from real science, we have known for years that what actually causes most cardiovascular issues, including atherosclerosis, is the consumption of carbohydrates and any kind of vegetable (seed) oil, especially mixed together.
However, “sugars” and “high-glycemic carbs” does not matter. It’s carbohydrates that matters. All form of carbohydrates is broken down to glucose and your body has to handle it.
And what do most misinformed bodybuilders consume in extreme excess? Yes, carbohydrates. Many of them even take extra insulin simply to be able to process the amount of junk they put into the pieholes. Insanity.
Remember, all kind of carbohydrates are broken down to sugar and ultimately glucose as it enters the blood stream. As glucose is very harmful to our blood vessels and high levels are actually lethal to our brain, glucose is always prioritized by our body or we would die. This also means that any kind of bad fat you ingested, as in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, will sit around at elevated levels for longer periods of time while your body deals with the most immediate threat of elevated glucose (the Randle Cycle.) A recipe for atherosclerosis (and also fat gain.) Not to mention that many bodybuilders consume broccoli, kale and other extremely toxic “vegetables” that are full of oxalates, the chemical that binds to calcium creating oxalate crystals that binds to the walls of blood vessels, to joints and form kidney stones.
And as for vegetable oils and sources of trans fats, they are everywhere today. And most bodybuilders, and fitness athletes, are still trapped in pseudo- and bro science of getting most of their “fats” from oils, as in vegetable oils such as olive and avocado oils. Pure toxic poison!
If you do not know about the extreme toxicity of vegetable (seed) oils, how they immediately turn rancid and the development of aldehydes, please read my article on the subject here:
The “researchers” then continue with a speculative risk factor of high blood pressure. Obviously, this is not something you can get from an autopsy report, but it is known that most bodybuilders have elevated blood pressure and that it can contribute to a shorter life span. However, while high levels of some very androgenic anabolic steroids, such as trenbolone, can increase blood pressure, we also see elevated blood pressure among most overweight people. So, again, is this simply because of drugs, or is it only partly because of drugs, and mostly because of a ‘extremely shitty and retarded diet?’
First, there’s no doubt that certain drugs will increase blood pressure, I’ve seen it first hand with numerous clients in the past where the diet has been constant and the only changing variable was changes in their steroid cycle. However, as I have never been an advocate of a high intake of carbohydrates and have always told my clients to stay away from insulin, their blood pressure has never been abnormal high, only slightly above normal or close to the “high territory,” never higher than that. Also, I was very conservative with any kind of vegetable oil. Most of my diets for bodybuilders in the past when I coached relied on meat, fatty fish, eggs, and very limited servings of vegetables (mostly carrot, cucumber, squash, and those low in antinutrients.) Also, the only carb the bigger guys had was either white rice and/or potato in the meal after a training session, and the also had some maltodextrin or Vitargo before training. The rest of the day was more ketogenic-like.
And this goes along the lines of more real research and science, that the culprit for any cardiovascular problem are carbohydrates, vegetable/seed oils, certain plant-based foods, and especially combining carbohydrates and vegetable oils in the same meal. And I would say that this is the main reason why we see so much illness and ‘modern diseases’ in today’s society, and even in bodybuilders that are seen as “healthy eaters,” when in reality they are just as duped as the obese couch potato and follow extremely horrific diets.
While most of them avoid extremely processed foods, they still consume a shit-load of carbohydrates. And again, it does not matter what kind of carbohydrate you consume, it will all be broken down to sugars and glucose anyway. They also consume a lot of vegetables that are contraindicated in the human species appropriate diet of the flesh and fat of animals. All plant foods are full of defence chemicals, antinutrients, and pesticides, while being totally void of any bioavailable nutrient. And then they add a lot of vegetable oil or consume avocados by the truckload. Extremely unhealthy. So, yeah, their diets are not that much better than that of the average person. Then add all the drugs on top of that and they might actually be worse off.
It all comes back to what I’ve repeatedly said, that if you follow our species specific, species appropriate diet, most of these health problems just vanish. And that is even more important if you use anabolic steroids or other physique enhancing drugs. If you want to be healthy, live a long life full of energy and vitality, you need to stick to an animal-based diet and also incorporate fasting several times a year to detoxify, break down damaged cells, regenerate organs, and reset hormone receptors.
If you need help with this, I will be available for nutritional- and life-style coaching for about two to three clients a month. Contact me on messenger if you need help.
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