Bodybuilding, Steroids and the Acne Bacteria


From Ergo Log
Steroids users are more likely to develop acne because of changes that occur in the skin, creating an environment in which the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria thrive. Bacteriologists at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran discovered this. Natural bodybuilding doesn’t increase the chance of developing acne though.
About half of all anabolic steroids users have an acne problem. Together with irritability and aggression, acne is one of the three most reported side effects of steroids. Nevertheless, little is known about the way in which steroids boost the likelihood of developing acne.
So far the knowledge is confined to knowing that steroids increase the amount of sebum secreted by skin cells. Sebum contains fatty acids.


Fatty acids are toxic for many benign bacteria, so they clear the way for dermatological devils like Staphylococcus aureus and Propionibacterium acnes [see right], which are resistant to fatty acids. In addition, these bacteria secrete the enzyme lipase, which splits fat into glycerol and fatty acids. As a result Staphylococcus aureus and Propionibacterium acnes colonize the sebaceous glands – and cause acne.


That’s the theory. The Iranians decided to compare the skin of 71 chemical bodybuilders with that of 23 natural bodybuilders and 46 non-athletes, to see whether the theory holds water. It turned out to be half true. All subjects in the study were male, and the average age was 24.


The researchers noticed no clear effect of steroids use on Staphylococcus aureus. The natural bodybuilders had Staphylococcus aureus on their skin just as often as the steroids users.

The researchers did find a noticeable effect of steroids use on the presence of Propionibacterium acnes. The bacteria were present on the skin of 45 percent of the steroids users. Only 17 percent of the natural bodybuilders had these bacteria on their skin.

The researchers also counted the number of pimples containing no pus [papula] and the number that did contain pus [pustule] on the skin of the participants. They observed that more natural bodybuilders had a clear skin than among the steroids users.

They also noted that the natural bodybuilders were more likely to host Propionibacterium acnes than the non-active men. Despite this, the natural bodybuilders had the best skin condition of all groups. So is it the lifestyle of natural bodybuilders that protects against acne?


Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 May;16(3):485-6.




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