Objective: To investigate the endocrine profile, body composition, and state of mood in male Olympic athletes participating in sports that do or do not emphasize leanness.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Research unit at a university hospital.
Participants: Forty-four Swedish male Olympic athletes participating in 26 different sport disciplines.
Main outcome measures: Body composition was determined by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, and blood levels of steroid hormones and biomarkers of nutritional status were analyzed. In addition, states of mood were assessed employing the profile of mood states (POMS) test. The athletes were divided into 2 groups on the basis of whether their sporting discipline emphasized leanness or not.
Results: In all subjects, body composition, hormone levels, and POMS scores were within normal ranges. However, the leanness athletes (n = 18) displayed significantly lower proportion of body fat (P < 0.01), higher spinal bone mineral density (P < 0.05), lower serum levels of free testosterone and leptin (P < 0.05), and higher serum levels of insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (P < 0.05) than nonleanness athletes (n = 26). Leanness athletes also had higher POMS scores for depression and anger, and a higher global POMS score (P < 0.05), the latter being positively correlated to the frequency of illness (r = 0.42, P < 0.01) before the Olympic Games.
Conclusion: Although there were no indications of energy deficiency or endocrine disturbance in the leanness athletes, their higher POMS scores and frequency of illness may indicate the potential harmfulness of their pursuit of outstanding athletic performance.