Mortality Rate Higher Among Bodybuilders

Reasons are unclear, but use of testosterone and other performance enhance drugs could be a contributing factor.
Reasons are unclear, but use of testosterone and other performance enhance drugs could be a contributing factor.

SAN DIEGO—Bodybuilders have a mortality rate 34% higher than that of the age-matched U.S. male population, according to a study presented at the American Urological Association's 2016 annual meeting.

Daniel Gwartney, MD, and colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston identified 1,578 professional male bodybuilders who compete from 1948 to 2014. They were able to obtain complete mortality data for 597. The mean age of the cohort was 47.5 years (range 25–81.7 years). The mean age during competitive years was 24.6 years (range 18–47 years). Of the 597 men, 58 (9.7%) were reported dead. Only 40 deaths were expected in this population based on age-matched data, for a standardized mortality rate of 1.34. The mean age of death was 47.7 years (range 26.6 – 75.4 years). The researchers found no significant difference in mortality rates above age 50 years.

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Although the cause is unclear, the increased mortality supports the possibility that use of performance enhancing drugs and unique competitive training, such as extreme weight changes, may contribute to deaths among younger professional bodybuilders.

“Professional male bodybuilders use high-dose testosterone and other performance enhancing drugs to improve athletic performance,” the authors noted in a study abstract. “These anabolic agents are potentially associated with negative sequelae including hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular effects, and possible liver damage.”

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