This paper discusses the risks and benefits of use of steroids.
The naturally produced steroids include all the corticosteroid hormones i.e. glucocorticoids or mineralocorticoids produced in the adrenal cortex. The sex hormones such as testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen are steroids. Additionally, all vitamins of the Vitamin D group i.e. calciferol, the bile acids i.e. the ursodeoxycholic acid and analogues, cardiac aglycones, sterols like cholesterol are all grouped under steroids. There are also some additional steroids such as toad poison, saponins, some carcinogenic hydrocarbons, some corticosteroid drugs like prednisone are all steroids. In general, the scientific community is successful in producing these chemicals in the laboratories and these synthetic chemicals are analogues of many of the naturally occurring steroids. Both natural and synthetic steroids are used to treat several disorders and play a critical role in the normal functioning of the body (ClearLead Inc.com, 2008). In the natural form steroids have a range of uses in the human body. For instance, important functions such as controlling meiosis, carbohydrate metabolism, storage of fat, growth and development of muscles, immune function and nerve cell membrane chemistry are all dependent on steroids.
Classification of Steroids
Based on the site of synthesis of steroids, these can be classified into three main groups- gonadal compounds, glucocorticoids and mineralcorticoids. The gonadal steroids as the name suggests are mainly synthesized in the gonads, while the glucocorticoids such as the cortisol, cortisone and mineralcorticoids such as the aldosterone are synthesized in the adrenal cortex.
Another mode of classification is the based on the impact of these chemicals on the body. For instance, steroids such as androgens, estrogens, progestogens, anabolics, and catabolics have specific function in the body. Androgens for example are involved with the development of muscles in the body and also the physical effect on the body, on the other hand anabolics promote growth. However, there are some exemptions such as the testosterones that are synthesized by both adrenal cortex as well as the testes and have both anabolic and androgenic properties.
The following are some of the steroids with their structure and their basic functions in the body.
Squalene: Squalene is the precursor in the formation of cholesterol. In fact it is an organic compound that is cyclized to form cholesterol (Figure 2). There are several reactions that take place during cyclization. One of the enzyme cyclase is also involved in the formation of lanosterol which is an intermediate compound. The lanosterol is downgraded, with the removal of three methyl groups and cholesterol is formed. This cyclization process is considered to be one of the most interesting and complex reactions in organic chemistry.
Cholesterol: Steroids are all cholesterol derivatives (Figure 3). In fact cholesterol is essential for several body functions. For instance, cholesterol is hydroxylated and modified by a special enzyme called the cytochrome P-450 into Pregnenolone (Figure 4) which is a hormone secreted in the uterus controlling ovum implantation. Further it is the