Body Builders Warned of Danger of Abusing Insulin
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) Aug 05 - Bodybuilders who use insulin to bulk their muscles and enhance their performance could develop brain damage or die, British doctors said on Tuesday.
Although the use of insulin is banned by the International Olympic Committee, doctors believe it is becoming more popular among body builders because it is difficult to detect with standard drug tests.
"It is likely that insulin is being abused for the purpose of enhanced performance and endurance in sporting events," said Dr. Richard Lynch, of Pontefract General Hospital in Yorkshire, northern England.
"It is very, very difficult to detect and it is likely that there are quite a lot of people using it and it could be potentially serious," he said in an interview.
A U.S. study indicated that as many as one in four athletes using anabolic steroids also abuse insulin, according to the report in the August issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Dr. Lynch describes the case of a 31-year old man who was admitted to hospital after being found unconscious in his home. He was treated for hypoglycemia and was thought to be a diabetic. But when the patient woke up he admitted that he was a body builder who had been taking insulin regularly and using steroids.
The two compounds can have a combined effect in increasing the muscle bulk, according to Dr. Lynch. Insulin boosts glycogen, which fuels muscles during exercise and leads to greater stamina--and steroids increase muscle.
Drug testing picks up many other banned substances, but because insulin vanishes from the blood stream very quickly it is very difficult to trace.
Dr. Lynch said body builders obtain insulin from diabetics and he also believes there is a black market for the hormone.
It is usually taken in secret, which compounds the problem. "This puts the user at risk of developing hypoglycemia for prolonged periods away from possible medical assistance, potentially resulting in coma or death," Dr. Lynch added.
Br J Sports Med 2003;37:356-357.