A team at the N.C. Research Campus seeks volunteers to participate in a study on natural supplements to increase testosterone, strength and sexual function in men.
As men age, testosterone levels drop, and with that come loss of strength and sexual function, Dr. David Nieman, principal investigator in the study, said. Supplements to counter that and increase quality of life are common, he said, but there’s a need for a more natural approach.
“In general, people would like to have some higher testosterone but in a natural way,” Nieman said. “There’s testosterone patches and everything else. This is an attempt to circumvent that process and instead of doing prescription and that sort of thing, this is a natural way and lifts you up just a little bit, according to the Russian literature, just a little bit but enough to improve your strength and sexual function.
“A lot of men are interested in that, and this will show whether or not it actually works.”
The study takes two supplements developed by Purity Product, both of which include a rare ingredient called rhaponticum in addition to other herbal extracts. Rhaponticum, Nieman said, is a Serbian compound used frequently in Russia to enhance strength and sexual performance, but the product has only been tested once in the U.S.
So the Human Performance Laboratory with Appalachian State University, located at the N.C. Research Campus, decided to do a placebo double blind study, taking 130 men ages 40 to 70 and randomly assigning them pill A, pill B or a placebo pill. Study participants must not lift weights more than once a week, be in a stable relationship for at least the past three months with an active sex life and must stop using supplements such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra two weeks prior to the start research.
The initial lab visits will begin the week of Feb. 5, so potential participants have until Friday, Jan. 26, to stop taking any other supplements.
Once in the study, participants will come into the lab for baseline testing, which will include strength tests, blood work and an online questionnaire. The men will be randomly assigned a test group and must take the supplement four times a day for six weeks. After three weeks, participants will come in for another short round of testing and do the same after six weeks.
Each lab visit will mimic the first with exercises such as a hand grip, bench press and leg lift, body fat measurements and blood work to analyze testosterone levels. The visists should last about 30 to 45 minutes, Nieman said, and participants will receive a stipend of $300 total.
Even though the supplements haven’t been tested on humans before, Nieman said the drugs posed no risk to participants. Rhaponticum has shown no side effects either in Russia or the one study conducted in the United States, and the other compounds in the pills have been included in other products already on the market.
A main drive for the study is a market demand for natural muscle and sexual performance enhancers. The National Health and Social Life Survey found that 31 percent of men have sexual dysfunction, a percentage that increases with age. Nieman said that many men relate sexual performance to quality of life.
“It’s a very novel, Russia-based supplement that looks good in Russia, and we want to see how it looks here,” Nieman said. “There’s growing interest in a natural supplements to enhance sexual function in place of a testosterone replacement.”