Jan
19
2019

Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Belgium, stated that Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones. This talk was part the 26th Anti-Aging Conference of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (from December 13 to 15, 2018).

First of all, Dr. Hertoghe treated many Alzheimer’s patients himself and noted that they often have multiple hormone deficiencies. Secondly, common deficiencies affect thyroid hormones, human growth hormone, estradiol for women and testosterone for men. But even vasopressin and oxytocin are hormones that may be lacking. Third,  after doing thorough blood tests to assess hormone levels, Dr. Hertoghe replaced what hormones were missing. Finally, many Alzheimer’s patients got their energy, muscle strength and memory back.

In the following I am summarizing what Dr. Hertoghe told the audience about the various hormones. Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones. Later I provide the hormone doses that Dr. Hertoghe uses for replacement.

Progressive memory loss

Generally, patients who develop Alzheimer’s disease start losing short-term memory first, but in time they will also lose long-term memory. Often this disease process starts in the 60’s as age-associated cognitive impairment. In the 70’s it may progress further to mild cognitive impairment, only to take off in the 80’s as Alzheimer’s disease. The astute clinician may order some screening blood tests in the 60’s and 70’s. In a male low testosterone, low DHEAS and low thyroid hormones may be present. Certainly, blood tests will show this readily. Frequently, in women low estradiol, low thyroid and low DHEAS may also be present. The reason this is important is that simple hormone replacement can return a person back to normal. Yes, this is right: hormone replacement can bring a person with age-associated cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment back to normal! In other words, Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones.

Hormones important to monitor with Alzheimer’s disease

There are 6 hormones that are important for memory restoration in Alzheimer’s patients: IGF-1 (and growth hormone), thyroid hormones, estrogen and testosterone, vasopressin (and oxytocin) and pregnenolone. However, as Alzheimer’s patients often have sleep problems, another important hormone is melatonin.

Oxytocin to calm down aggressive Alzheimer’s patients

Notably, Dr. Hertoghe found that Alzheimer’s patients often are restless and can be aggressive. This makes it difficult to care for them in a home. Oxytocin is the hormone of trust, affection, sociability and concerns about others. It calms down aggressiveness. But with oxytocin treatment the Alzheimer’s patient feels better, becomes friendly, cooperative and warm-hearted.

As an illustration Dr. Hertoghe gave an example of one of his 80-year old patients with aggressive Alzheimer’s disease. She became unmanageable for her non-married son and other contacts. 5 IU of oxytocin sublingually changed this woman into a friendly, compassionate, warm-hearted woman, and the aggressiveness disappeared completely.

Insomnia in Alzheimer’s patients

About 45% of Alzheimer’s patients develop “sundowning”. When the sun goes down they start getting hyperactive, develop unacceptable behaviors and they become restless. Research papers showed that blood melatonin levels are low in these patients. Indeed, this is why they respond very well to small amounts of melatonin at bedtime. As a conclusion, within only a few days of starting this, their sundowning disappears, and they become easier to look after.

Dr. Hertoghe provided material from several research papers that showed that Alzheimer’s patients are often deficient for melatonin. Replacement with varying doses of melatonin solved even more complicated insomnia problems.

Melatonin is a powerful anti-oxidant. Interesting animal experiments have shown that melatonin has memory-enhancing properties. Researchers believe that melatonin improves the extracellular senile plaques with amyloid-beta peptide accumulation (first of 2 Alzheimer’s lesions). In addition melatonin also decreases the intracellular neurofibrillary degeneration tangles, the second of the two specific Alzheimer’s lesions.

IGF-1 and human growth hormone

Several studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have a significant drop in IGF-1 levels and growth hormone levels. This affects their short-term and long-term memory. Serum IGF-1 has an inverse correlation with cognitive impairment. Dr. Hertoghe said that IGF-1 treatment in Alzheimer’s patients increases their brain volume, increases the functional network of neurons in the brain and increases memory.

Brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s patients from chronically depleted IGF-1

Dr. Hertoghe showed a slide of a normal brain with a view from the outside and a cross section view of the brain. The same slide contained the view of an Alzheimer’s patient’s brain. It showed brain atrophy resulting in a much smaller brain and the cross section displayed an increase of the hollow spaces (e.g. the third and forth ventricle). He stressed that in his view the brain shrinkage of Alzheimer’s patients is due to prolonged low levels of IGF-1. This in turn is due to a lack of production of human growth hormone.

With IGF-1 treatment the serum IGF-1 was increasing and the cognitive function in older adults recovered. Dr. Hertoghe provided many literature citations to support this, which I will not repeat here.

Case report of a male patient with Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. Hertoghe presented one of his patients with Alzheimer’s. Lab tests showed that he had deficiencies of thyroid hormones, DHEA and testosterone. But despite replacement of these hormones he remained severely affected with Alzheimer’s. He did not remember his own name, could not go to the toilet on his own, spoke only a few words and suffered from severe fatigue. He received 4 injections around his eyes with IGF-1 and mesotherapy from his doctor (described below) with human growth hormone and IGF-1. Within a few weeks he had a complete reversal of his cognitive decline. He could return to his professional driving career doing halftime work with a delivery van in the city. He could read a newspaper and understood what he was reading. Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones.

Thyroid hormones

According to Dr. Hertoghe thyroid hormones help to establish short-term and long-term memory and treat the apathetic depression in Alzheimer’s patients. Many Alzheimer’s patients are hypothyroid.With this deficiency they have swollen lower eyelids, a puffy face and paleness of the face. In a 1990 study a group of Alzheimer’s patients had 26% lower T3 levels when compared to normal controls. Many patients with hypothyroidism have memory loss, before their deficiency is corrected. Dr. Hertoghe stated that 13% of all dementia cases are reversible by proper thyroid hormone treatment.

Estradiol can improve long-term memory loss

Research showed that estradiol could improve long-term memory in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease cases. Many female Alzheimer’s patients are deficient in estrogens. If they do, they have dry eyes, a pale face and thin, dull hair. In a 2005 study 33 control women were compared to 48 women with Alzheimer’s disease. The estradiol levels in the Alzheimer’s disease group showed significant depletion compared to the normal control group. There was no significant difference found with regard to progesterone, testosterone and LH&HSH levels. Another study showed that in cerebrospinal fluid of women with Alzheimer’s disease the estradiol level was significantly reduced while the beta-amyloid levels were significantly increased.

Dr. Hertoghe reviewed several studies that showed that symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease disappeared with estradiol supplementation. Both memory and mood responded to the treatments.

Men with Alzheimer’s disease are often testosterone deficient

Testosterone is important for long-term memory. Men in andropause report erectile dysfunction, general weakness and memory loss. The physician needs to be aware that the patient may be starting to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Hertoghe showed a slide based on a publication, which stressed that testosterone enhances memory. It increases brain blood flow and thickens the myelin sheets. Testosterone increases dendrite and synapses and in addition decreases amyloid beta-peptide production. Neurotoxicity is also reduced. The end result is improvement of Alzheimer’s in males with testosterone replacement.

Pregnenolone improves short-term memory

Pregnenolone gets synthesized in the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. Dr. Hertoghe said that pregnenolone is a neurostimulating “neurosteroid”. Pregnenolone concentrations in brain tissue are about 25- to 35-fold higher than in the blood stream. Some cases of Alzheimer’s disease can come from a lack of pregnenolone and pregnenolone sulfate. Patients who have Alzheimer’s because of a lack of pregnenolone have blood levels that are 2.5-fold lower than pregnenolone levels in normal controls. When these patients are treated with pregnenolone, their memory improves. The mechanism of the effect of pregnenolone is by increasing acetylcholine by more than 50% in the hippocampus. It also protects the hippocampus from glutamate and amyloid beta. Pregnenolone improves short-term memory over a period of 3 to 4 months of treatment.

Vasopressin improves short-term and long-term memory loss

Postmortem studies on Alzheimer’s patients showed that there is decreased vasopressin in the brain cortex. In patients with alcoholic dementia (Korsakoff psychosis after recovery) there was decreased vasopressin in the cerebrospinal fluid. Often patients with diabetes insipidus have decreased vasopressin and are in danger of developing dementia. If not treated, they develop short-term and long-term memory loss. When treated with vasopressin or Desmopressin their memory recovers within 4 hours of starting therapy. Younger patients (50 to 73) do better with memory recovery than older patients (74 to 91).

Treatment details of hormone replacement for Alzheimer’s disease

Before hormone treatments are given to a patient it is important to do a battery of blood tests. This will help the physician to identify the missing hormones in a particular patient. Each of the missing hormones are then administered separately.

Oxytocin

This hormone can be given sublingually or intranasally. Sublingually 5-10 IU are given daily. With the sublingual approach 1 or 2 sprays are given daily. Each spray contains 8 IU of oxytocin. Improvement is visible within 2 to 5 days. A full recovery takes 2 to 3 months.

Melatonin

Most patients in the higher age group do no longer produce their own melatonin. With the oral route 1-3 mg are given every night before going to bed. An alternative is to use sublingual tables 0.5mg to 1.0mg at bedtime. The first improvement can be seen 2-5 days after the start of replacing melatonin, the full impact takes about 2-3 months from the start of the treatment.

IGF-1 and human growth hormone

Replacement of IGF-1 can be done by injecting IGF-1 or human growth hormone (HGH). HGH stimulates the liver to produce IGF-1. IGF-1 is somewhat cheaper than HGH. When IGF-1 is used, 0.3mg to 1mg is injected at bedtime. Progress is slow; the first improvement is visible at 2-4 months, it takes up to 24 to 36 months for a full recovery.

For severe memory impairment with Alzheimer’s, the doctor does a double treatment approach with both IGF-1 and HGH: first subcutaneous IGF-1 injections around the eyes 4 times per day (0.01mg each). Secondly, at the doctor’s office the doctor administers mesotherapy injections with 1mg of HGH and 1mg of IGF-1 and vasodilators 3 times per week. Two weeks later the doctor administers another course of mesotherapy. He may repeat this twice in 14-day intervals. Now the interval increases to monthly therapy for 3 months and finally every 3 to 4 months. The patient can use IGF-1 nose drops instead of subcutaneous IGF-1 injections.

Thyroid hormones

Dr. Hertoghe prefers desiccated animal thyroid hormone replacement as the T3/T4 ratio is best matched to what the ratio is in humans. Depending on the severity of thyroid hormone deficiency the patient takes 30-150mg of thyroid hormone every morning. Dr. Hertoghe starts with a low dose and slowly increases the dosage. Clinical progress is very slow. It takes until the second month before the first improvement takes place. Full improvement can take 8-12 months.

Estradiol

Replacement of estradiol in postmenopausal women with Alzheimer’s disease received ether more than 0.1mg per day or 0.625mg of conjugated equine estrogen daily. In both cases there were improvements of their memory and improvement on the Hamilton depression scale.

Dr. Hertoghe’s preferred way to treat postmenopausal women with Alzheimer’s disease is as follows. The first 25 days of each month he gives them 1-2mg of oral estradiol valerate each day and 100mg of micronized progesterone. If they prefer an estrogen cream, he gives them 1-3mg per day transdermal estradiol and 100mg micronized progesterone capsules.

The first improvement is visible after 2-4 months; there is further improvement the next 8-12 months.

Testosterone

There are two methods of how to do hormone replacement with testosterone, either by injection or as transdermal cream. The injection treatment uses 250mg of testosterone enanthate or cypionate every 2 -3 weeks. The patinet can also self-administer testosterone enanthate (50mg twice per week) for a more even blood level of testosterone. The transdermal approach involves 100-250mg transdermal, nanoliposomal testosterone daily.

The memory will improve 2-4 months into replacement therapy. The full improvement takes 8-12 months.

Pregnenolone

The replacement therapy is 100mg per day in the morning for the first 4 months. Then there is a dosage reduction to 50mg daily. Studies have shown that 30mg of pregnenolone is not enough to treat memory loss. Short-term memory improved after 3 to 4 months in about 75% of patients.

Vasopressin

The best vasopressin preparation to use is bio-identical vasopressin. It comes as 1 nasal spray with 10IU of vasopressin. Upon awakening the patient or caregiver applies 1-2 sprays into the nose. The patient receives the second dose 10 minutes before lunch by nasal spray.

Apart from hormones, lifestyle changes are also recommendable.

Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones

Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones

Conclusion

Who would have thought that Alzheimer’s disease could have anything to do with hormones? Dr. Hertoghe, the endocrinologist from Belgium did many hormone tests on Alzheimer’s patients and concluded that various degrees of hormone deficiencies can indeed cause Alzheimer’s disease. But what is more is that you can replace the missing hormones and see complete cures in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with hormones. This is something conventional medicine can only dream of. At this point this hormonal approach is not yet mainstream medicine; but it would not be a surprise to me, if in 10 or 20 years interested physicians do this type of therapy routinely in their practice. When hormones are missing, replace them. When the memory is fading, think about testing for missing hormones! It will make a difference in the quality of life for the patient as well as for his family.

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Mar
18
2017

What’s new about testosterone?

Dr. Gary Huber recently gave a lecture on what’s new about testosterone. He presented his talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Evolution of Testosterone – Dispelling Myths & Charting a Future”.

History of testosterone

There are some notable historic landmarks with respect to the discovery of testosterone.

1869: Dr. Charles Brown-Sequard suggested that the “feebleness of older men” was due to a lack of testosterone. He injected himself with testicular extracts from dogs and guinea pigs.

1912: The Danish physician Dr. Thorkild Rovsing transplanted the testicles of a young soldier killed in battle into an old man with gangrene. The gangrenous wound healed completely.

1918: Dr. Leo Stanley sampled fresh testicles from executed prisoners at the San Quentin Prison and transplanted them to prison inmates. Some regained their sexual potency.

1930’s: Professor Adolf Butenandt collected 25,000 liters of urine from willing policemen. He was able to isolate a breakdown product of testosterone, androsterone. Eventually he isolated both progesterone and testosterone. He received the Nobel prize for his work with sex hormones in 1939.

Historical detours and misguided opinions about testosterone

1935: Because natural hormones cannot be patented, Big Pharma came up with the idea of modifying testosterone by adding a methyl group at the 17-alpha position of testosterone. This new substance, 17 alpha-methyltestosterone, was a new compound. The FDA could patent it. Men liked it, because they could swallow this testosterone derivative as a pill. However, the liver changed 17 alpha-methyl-testosterone into 17 alpha-methyl-estradiol, a strong estrogenic compound. The body could not metabolize this testosterone compound too well. Shortly after introduction into patients it became evident that 17 alpha-methyl-testosterone caused liver cancers. This “testosterone equivalent” was on the market for 50 years before the FDA outlawed it because I caused liver cancer. It also caused suspicion among physicians about any testosterone replacement, even the bioidentical hormones that are safe.

Prostate cancer myths

Prostate cancer myth

Conventional medicine teaches (and I have believed this for many years) that testosterone would be the cause for prostate cancer. This was based on old observations by Dr. Huggins, a Canadian born surgeon who practiced in Chicago, that orchiectomy improved the survival of advanced prostate cancer patients a bit. Dr. Lee pointed out that Dr. Huggins neglected to realize that testicles make both testosterone and small amounts of estrogen. The belief that testosterone production was the culprit of prostate cancer led to the practice of physicians to do orchiectomies. This inadvertently removed the real cause of prostate cancer, an estrogen surplus. This improved the survival of these patients somewhat. Nowadays we have more sophisticated testing methods.

Estrogen causes prostate cancer, testosterone does not

Dr. Abraham Morgentaler (Ref. 1) has compiled a lot of evidence about the importance of testosterone in men. He proved, based on a lot of more modern references, that it is not testosterone that is the cause of prostate cancer. We know now that estrogen dominance is responsible for prostate cancer and that this develops as stated above because of the low testosterone and low progesterone during the male menopause (also called “andropause”).

It is important, when testosterone deficiency is present in an aging man, to replace the missing testosterone with bioidentical testosterone.

Some physicians still practice the old method of hormone depletion therapy in advanced prostate cancer cases. But Dr. Morgentaler and other researchers have shown that it is wrong to do hormone depletion therapy or orchiectomies.

10% absorption rule myth

For years there has been a persistent myth that the skin would only absorb 10% of testosterone. There was never any proof of this and newer studies showed that indeed the skin absorbs about 90% of testosterone.

Misleading science created myths

Unfortunately three key medical journals, JAMA, NEJM and PLOS ONE have published misleading studies. The content did not discuss physiology, mechanism of actions, appropriate dosing or true science. But they concluded that testosterone therapy was causing heart attacks and strokes. There was an outcry about this particular study in the medical community reflected in the demand to retract this misleading article.

Unfortunately there were more similar false “studies”. The problem with these was that the controls were wrong or they compared unequal groups that were not comparable. It is reminiscent of previous effort of the tobacco industry wanting to cover up that cigarette smoke causes lung cancer.

Testosterone replacement treats the cause of the deficiency

Here we have the problem that testosterone cures so many conditions for which the Pharma industry has many patented medicines that control the symptoms. But testosterone can actually treat the cause of the illness, testosterone deficiency, which leads to a cure of many other symptoms.

For a long time confusion plagued the older physician generation. But younger physicians are replacing the older generation and they treat testosterone deficiency with bioidentical testosterone in the proper dose.

Clinical observations about a lack of testosterone

There is evidence that men have lower testosterone as they age and this has worsened when we compare data from early 2000 to the 1980’s and 1990’s.

As this paper shows, men investigated in the 1980’s were still having higher testosterone levels in older age. But in the 1990’s and more so in 2004 these values have declined even more. This fact coincides also with other studies, showing decreased sperm health and increased infertility. The reason for this is also a lack of testosterone!

Causation of low testosterone

Dr. Huber pointed out that many studies have pointed to a variety of causes for low testosterone levels in men.

BPA, toxins and pesticides

BPA, toxins and pesticides that occupy testosterone receptors and interfere with the hypothalamus/pituitary hormone function that stimulates the Leydig cells to produce testosterone.

The more stress, the less testosterone

The more stress men are under, the less testosterone production there is. Sleep deprivation below 5 hours per night leads to a significant lower testosterone production. Most testosterone production occurs during the sleep in the early morning hours.

Less testosterone from weight gain and sugar overconsumption

Weight gain and sugar overconsumption poison the testosterone producing Leydig cells.

Poly-pharmacy can lower testosterone

Poly-pharmacy. Many drugs lower testosterone production: statins, diuretics, metformin, spironolactone, opiates, antidepressants, verapamil, alcohol, chemotherapy for cancer, antihistamines, ketoconazole, beta blockers, H2 blockers, finasteride, estrogens and alpha methyldopa.

Many references were provided that support these data. One paper reported that the risk of a heart attack climbs to 4 times the risk of normal, when the man sleeps less than 6 hours per night. As sleep hours lower, the risk for metabolic syndrome increases by 42% and this leads to heart attacks. Testosterone replacement can reverse this risk as it is a lack of testosterone production that caused the risk.

Link of low testosterone to cardiovascular disease

The literature is overwhelming that low testosterone has adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. To be more specific, the metabolic syndrome, heart disease (and strokes), diabetes and high blood pressure have their root in low testosterone.

Metabolic syndrome

Inflammation is mediated by cytokines such as IL-6. Dr. Huber mentioned one study where healthy men received IL-6. This promptly suppressed testosterone levels. He said that there are many cytokines that work in concert to suppress testosterone. One useful clinical test for inflammation is the C-reactive protein, which indicates whether or not inflammation is present in a person. Metabolic syndrome is common in obese patients. In a study CRP was found to be significantly associated with obesity. When CRP is high, testosterone levels are low. When the CRP level is high, there is a risk of getting the first heart attack.

Testosterone treatment and inflammation

On the other hand, when men with high inflammatory markers from low testosterone levels were replaced with testosterone, the tumor necrosis factor was reduced by 50%, IL1b by 37%, triglycerides by 11% and total cholesterol by 6%.

In the Moscow study a group of obese men with low testosterone levels were treated with testosterone injections. There was an impressive reduction of insulin (17%), CRP (35%) weight reduction of 4% and TNF-a reduction of 31% within 16 weeks.

Heart disease (and strokes)

Hardening of the arteries (medically called atherosclerosis) is due to chronic inflammation. Researchers developed a new heart attack/stroke specific biomarker. It is a ratio of oxidized LDL, divided by HDL. This has an odds ratio of 13.92 compared to a control without a risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Administration of testosterone hormone led to dilatation of coronary arteries. The Rotterdam study showed that low testosterone levels were associated with high risk for heart attacks and strokes, but that treatment with testosterone removed this risk. Testosterone increases AMP kinase for energy production in heart muscle cells, but also dilates coronary arteries for more blood supply to the heart.

Diabetes

Among men with diabetes 20-64% have low testosterone levels. In another study men with higher testosterone levels had a 42% lower diabetes risk. Testosterone levels are inversely related to body mass index and insulin resistance. Men with diabetes have lower testosterone levels than men who were not diabetic and were weight-matched. Most diabetics have high CRP values.

High blood pressure

Experience with androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer has shown that blood pressure gets elevated due to testosterone deficiency. Testosterone increases LDH, the protective subunit of cholesterol, and decreases LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Testosterone also lowers inflammatory markers and reverses clotting factors making blood thinner. All of this leads to a widening of the arteries and lowering of blood pressure.

Treatment options for low testosterone

It is important to support the hypothalamic /pituitary/adrenal gland axis and remove other causes, such as stress and lack of sleep. Younger men can be stimulated in the pituitary gland through Clomiphene. Men older than 60 likely have true secondary hypogonadism and need testosterone replacement. Topical testosterone creams are available commercially or from compounding pharmacies. Injectable testosterone preparations that can be metabolized by the body are available. One such preparation is Delatestryl. A small dose (like 50 mg) is self-injected subcutaneously twice per week, which keeps the testosterone level stable. The last resort, if the creams or injections don’t work, is the use of testosterone pellets that a physician can implant under the skin.

What’s new about testosterone?

What’s new about testosterone?

Conclusion

At a recent Anti-Aging conference in Las Vegas that I attended, Dr. Huber gave an overview of testosterone. There has been an objective reduction of testosterone levels in men since the 1980’s due to pollutants in our environment. Testosterone plays a key role for heart and brain function. It affects sex drive, fertility and potency. But it also prevents diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain. On top of that it prevents prostate cancer and likely many other cancers. The key with low testosterone is to replace it to high normal levels. Blood levels should be measured every two months, when replacement has been instituted, in order to ensure adequate levels.

References  Ref.1 Abraham Morgentaler, MD “Testosterone for Life – Recharge your vitality, sex drive, muscle mass and overall health”, McGraw-Hill, 2008

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Feb
25
2017

Heart Health Improves With Hormone Replacement

Dr. Pamela Smith gave a lecture in December 2016 showing that heart health improves with hormone replacement. Her talk was part of the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9 to Dec. 11, 2016) in Las Vegas, which I attended. The title of the talk was: “Heart health: The Importance of Hormonal Balance for Men and Women”. Her keynote lecture contained 255 slides. I am only presenting a factual summary of the pertinent points here.

1. Estrogen

First of all, estrogens are the main female hormone in women that protects them from heart attacks.

Observations regarding risk of heart attacks

  1. Women have a lower risk of heart attacks before menopause compared to men of the same age.
  2. Heart attack rates go up significantly after menopause.
  3. Estrogen replacement therapy may reduce the risk of heart attacks by 50% for postmenopausal women.

Lipid profile after menopause

There is an elevation of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides as well as lower HDL cholesterol levels. All of this causes a higher risk of heart attacks for postmenopausal women. Estrogen replacement therapy increases the large VLDL particles, decreases LDL levels and raises HDL-2. Postmenopausal women who do estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) are helping to reduce their heart attack rates.

Difference between oral and transdermal estrogen replacement

The liver metabolizes estrogen taken by mouth. This reduces the protective effect on the cardiovascular system. In contrast, transdermal estrogen (from commercial estrogen patches or from bioidentical estrogen creams) has a higher cardioprotective effect. The liver does not metabolize transdermal estrogen. Dr. Smith explained using many slides how estrogen prevents heart attacks. Apart from lipid lowering effects there are protective effects to the lining of the arteries. In addition there are metabolic processes in heart cells and mitochondria that benefit from estrogens. The end result is that postmenopausal women who replace estrogen will outlive men by about 10 years. The production of Premarin involved pregnant mares. In other words, it is not human estrogen and it does not fit the human estrogen receptors. Also the liver metabolizes estrogen taken as tablet form, which loses a lot of the beneficial effects that you get from transdermal estrogen. 

How can you document the beneficial effects of estrogen replacement?

  1. Carotid intima measurements in postmenopausal women on ERT show a consistent reduction in thickness compared to controls.
  2. Postmenopausal women on ERT reduce their physical and emotional stress response compared to postmenopausal women without ERT.
  3. Hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women reduces blood pressure. Measurements showed this effect to be due to a reduction of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) by 20%. This is the equivalent of treating a woman with an ACE inhibitor without the side effects of these pills.
  4. Coronary calcification scores were lower in postmenopausal women on ERT than a control group without ERT. These calcification scores correlate with the risk for heart attacks.
  5. Oral estrogen replacement leads to proinflammatory metabolites from the liver metabolism of estrogen. No proinflammatory metabolites occur in the blood of women using transdermal estrogen. The anti-inflammatory effect of transdermal estrogen is another mechanism that prevents heart attacks.
  6. Postmenopausal women on ERT had no increased risk of heart attacks or venous thromboembolism (clots in veins). Menopausal women without ERT have a risk of 40% of dying from a heart attack. Their risk of developing breast cancer is 5.5%, the risk of dying from breast cancer is about 1%. There was an increase of venous thromboembolism in women who took oral estrogen.
  7. Estrogen has antiarrhythmic effects stabilizing the heart rhythm. Dr. Smith said that in the future intravenous estrogen might be used to prevent serious arrhythmias following heart attacks.

Estrogen levels in males

Males require a small amount of estrogens to maintain their memory, for bone maturation and regulation of bone resorption. But they also need small amounts of estrogen for their normal lipid metabolism.

However, if the estrogen levels are too high as is the case in an obese, elderly man, there is an increased risk of heart disease. Factors that lead to increased estrogen levels in an older man are: increased aromatase activity in fatty tissue, overuse of alcohol and a change in liver metabolism, zinc deficiency, ingestion of estrogen-containing foods and environmental estrogens (also called xenoestrogens).

2. Progesterone

Furthermore, progesterone is the second most important female hormone, the importance of which has been neglected in the past. Progesterone is significantly different from the progestin medroxyprogesterone (MPA). MPA was the oral progestin that was responsible for heart attacks and blood clots in the Women’s Health Initiative. MPA increases smooth muscle cell proliferation. This in turn causes hardening of the coronary arteries. In contrast, progesterone inhibits smooth muscle cell proliferation, which prevents heart attacks. Progesterone also lowers blood pressure and elevates HDL cholesterol, but MPA does not.

Progesterone in males

In a small study Depo-Provera was given to males for 17 days. Blood tests showed a lowering of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and Apo A-1.

3. Testosterone

Finally, testosterone is the third sex hormone that is present in women. In men it is the main hormone, but women benefit from just a small amounts of it for libido, clarity of thought and muscle endurance.

Testosterone replacement in women

Testosterone in women does not only increase their sex drive, but also relaxes the coronary arteries in women who were testosterone deficient. This allows more blood flow to the heart. In postmenopausal women testosterone replacement lowered lipoprotein (a) levels up to 65%. The physician replaces first with bioidentical estrogen; only then does he consider replacing missing testosterone in women. Otherwise testosterone alone can cause heart attacks in women.

Elevated testosterone in women with PCOS

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can have increased testosterone levels when they go through premenopause or menopause.

Women with PCOS are at a higher risk to develop diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. 50% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. 70% of women with PCOS in the US have lipid abnormalities in their blood.

Elevated testosterone levels in the blood can lower the protective HDL cholesterol and increase homocysteine levels. Both can cause heart attacks.

Women with PCOS have a 4-fold risk of developing high blood pressure.

Testosterone replacement in males

A 2010 study showed that low testosterone levels in males were predictive of higher mortality due to heart attacks and cancer. Low testosterone ca cause high blood pressure, heart failure and increased risk of cardiovascular deaths. There was a higher incidence of deaths from heart attacks when testosterone levels were low compared to men with normal testosterone levels.

Low testosterone can cause diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which in turn can cause heart attacks.

It is important that men with low testosterone get testosterone replacement therapy.

DHT (Dihydrotestosterone)

DHT is much more potent than testosterone. Conversion of testosterone leads to DHT via the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. While testosterone can be aromatized into estrogen, DHT cannot. Some men have elevated levels of DHT. This leads to a risk of heart attacks, prostate enlargement and hair loss of the scalp.

Andropause treatment

Only about 5% of men in andropause with low testosterone levels receive testosterone replacement in the US. This may be due to rumors that testosterone may cause prostate cancer or liver cancer. The patient or the physician may be reluctant to treat with testosterone. Researchers sh0wed that bioidentical testosterone does not cause any harm. It is safe to use testosterone cream transdermally. It does not cause prostate cancer or benign prostatic hypertrophy.

An increase of 6-nmol/L-serum testosterone was associated with a 19% drop in all-cause mortality.

Testosterone helps build up new blood vessels after a heart attack. Testosterone replacement increases coronary blood flow in patients with coronary artery disease. Another effect of testosterone is the decrease of inflammation. Inflammation is an important component of cardiovascular disease.

Testosterone replacement improves exercise capacity, insulin resistance and muscle performance (including the heart muscle).

Apart from the beneficial effect of testosterone on the heart it is also beneficial for the brain. Testosterone treatment prevents Alzheimer’s disease in older men by preventing beta amyloid precursor protein production.

4. DHEA

The adrenal glands produce the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). It is a precursor for male and female sex hormones, but has actions on its own. It supports muscle strength. Postmenopausal women had a higher mortality from heart disease when their DHEA blood levels were low.

Similar studies in men showed the same results. Congestive heart failure patients of both sexes had more severe disease the lower the DHEA levels were. Other studies have used DHEA supplementation in heart patients, congestive heart failure patients and patients with diabetes to show that clinical symptoms improved.

5. Melatonin

Low levels of melatonin have been demonstrated in patients with heart disease. Melatonin inhibits platelet aggregation and suppresses nighttime sympathetic activity (epinephrine and norepinephrine). Sympathetic activity damages the lining of coronary arteries. Melatonin reduces hypoxia in patients with ischemic stroke or ischemic heart disease. Lower nocturnal melatonin levels are associated with higher adverse effects following a heart attack. Among these are recurrent heart attacks, congestive heart failure or death. Melatonin widens blood vessels, is a free radical scavenger and inhibits oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Melatonin reduces inflammation following a heart attack. This can be measured using the C-reactive protein.

In patients who had angioplasties done for blocked coronary arteries intravenous melatonin decreased CRP, reduced tissue damage, decreased various irregular heart beat patterns and allowed damaged heart tissue to recover.

6. Thyroid hormones

It has been known for more than 100 years that dysfunction of the thyroid leads to heart disease. Hypothyroidism can cause heart attacks, hardening of the coronary arteries and congestive heart failure. Lesser-known connections to hypothyroidism are congestive heart failure, depression, fibromyalgia, ankylosing spondylitis and insulin resistance. Some cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with low thyroid levels may successfully respond to thyroid replacement.

Thyroid hormones improve lipids in the blood, improve arterial stiffness and improve cardiac remodeling following a heart attack. Thyroid hormones help with the repair of the injured heart muscle. They also work directly on the heart muscle helping it to contract more efficiently. Lower thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) values and higher T3 and T4 thyroid hormone levels lead to improved insulin sensitivity, higher HDL values (= protective cholesterol) and overall better functioning of the lining of the arteries.

Dr. Smith said that thyroid replacement should achieve that

  • TSH is below 2.0, but above the lower limit of normal
  • Free T3 should be dead center of normal or slightly above
  • Free T4 should be dead center of normal or slightly above

Most patients with hypothyroidism require replacement of both T3 and T4 (like with the use of Armour thyroid pills).

7. Cortisol

Cortisol is the only human hormone that increases with age. All other hormones drop off to lower values with age. The adrenal glands manufacture cortisol. With stress cortisol is rising, but when stress is over, it is supposed to come down to normal levels. Many people today are constantly overstressed, so their adrenal glands are often chronically over stimulated. This can lead to a lack of progesterone. It also causes a lack of functional thyroid hormones as they get bound and are less active. When women have decreased estradiol in menopause there is a decline in norepinephrine production, production of serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine. Women with this experience depression, lack of drive and slower thought processes.

Heart Health Improves With Hormone Replacement

Heart Health Improves With Hormone Replacement

Conclusion

Seven major hormones have been reviewed here that all have a bearing on the risk of developing a heart attack. It is important that these hormones are balanced, so they can work with each other. Hormones can be compared to a team that works together and is responsible for our health. If one or several of the team players are ineffective, our health will suffer. For this reason hormone replacement is crucial.

Hormone effects on heart muscle

Hormones have effects on mitochondria of the heart muscles cells. They stabilize the heart rhythm as in the case of estradiol. But they can also strengthen the heart muscle directly through DHEA and estrogens in women and DHEA and testosterone in men. Thyroid hormones are another supportive force for the heart. Physicians can  use them therapeutically in chronic heart failure patients. When people age, their hormone glands will produce less hormones, but blood tests will show this. Replacing hormones that are missing can add years of active life. Taking care of the symphony of hormones means you are taking care of your most important organ, the heart!

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Dec
31
2016

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

.Eli Lilly’s promising drug solanezumab failed; so, what works against Alzheimer’s? This drug was supposed to dissolve the amyloid deposits that function like glue and make the patients lose their memory. This phase 3 trial was to test the drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety. But instead it showed that the new drug did not stop the loss of memory.

Brain bleeding as a side effect of potential Alzheimer’s drug

Now all those who were hoping for solanezumab to be effective, will jump on another drug, aducanumab. Biogen from Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed this drug. Out of 165 subjects only 125 completed preliminary studies. 40 patients who discontinued it, had negative side effects. These included fluid building up in the brain, which was thought to be due to removal of the plaques. But others, had brain bleeding.

Although the drug manufacturer is still hoping that aducanumab will work out as an anti-Alzheimer’s drug, I have my doubts. A drug that can have potential brain bleeding as a side effect does in my opinion not qualify as an anti-Alzheimer’s drug.

Factors that help prevent Alzheimer’s

1. Diet can be as effective as a drug in treating Alzheimer’s

In September 2015 researchers from Rush University published results of putting Alzheimer’s patients on the MIND diet. The MIND diet was a prospective study where 923 people aged 58 to 98 years participated. Researchers followed these people for 4.5 years. Three groups of diets were tested: Mediterranean diet, DASH diet and MIND diet.

The MIND diet study result

The adherence to the diet was measured: those who followed the diet very closely, other participants who were less diligent, and finally those who were not compliant with the diet. With regard to the MIND diet the group with the highest adherence to the diet reduced the rate of Alzheimer’s by 53% compared to the lowest third. This is like a highly effective Alzheimer’s drug! The second group still was able to reduce the rate of Alzheimer’s by 35%, which would be like a regular strength drug. The control diets were the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. The group that was strictly adhering to the DASH diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 39%, the group that was very conscientious in adhering to the Mediterranean diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 54%. The middle thirds of both control diets did not show any difference versus the lower thirds.

Findings of Alzheimer prevention by diet

The conclusion was that a strict Mediterranean diet had a very good Alzheimer prevention effect, as did a strict MIND diet. However, when patients did not adhere too well to a diet, the MIND diet was superior still yielding 35% of Alzheimer’s prevention after 4.5 years. The other diets, when not adhered to that well, showed no difference from being on a regular North American diet. Here is more info about the MIND diet.

Conclusion

Avoid the Standard American Diet. Adopt a Mediterranean diet and stick to it in a strict fashion or adopt the MIND diet. The other benefit is that there are no side effects!

2. Stress and Alzheimer’s

2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 women aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychological stress ratings went back to 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 of them Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other forms of dementia). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. The condition became more severe the more stress they had to face in the past. Women with exposure to stress on one, two or three examinations had higher dementia rates later in life in comparison to women who had no exposure to any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after exposure to one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after exposure to three stressful episodes.

Conclusion

Prevention of Alzheimer’s is possible by avoiding stress and seeking counselling when stress occurred .

3. Be creative, prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia

In an April 8, 2015 publication from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and Scottsdale, AZ 256 participants aged 85 years and older (median age 87.3 years, 62% women and 38% men) were followed for 4.1 years. Psychological tests measured mild cognitive impairment (MCI). At the time of recruitment into the study all of the tests for MCI were normal. As the study progressed it became apparent that there were various risk factors that caused the onset of MCI, which is the immediate precursor of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.

The finding was that the presence of the genetic marker APOE ε4 allele carried a risk of 1.89-fold to develop MCI and later Alzheimer’s disease.

Further findings of the study

When patient showed signs of depression at the time of enrolment into the study, the risk of MCI development was 1.78-fold. Midlife onset of high blood pressure led to a 2.43-fold increase and a history of vascular disease showed a relationship of 1.13-fold higher MCI development. The good news was that four activities correlated with a lower risk of developing MCI with aging. When the person engaged in artistic activities in midlife or later in life the risk for MCI development 73% lower, involvement in crafts reduced it by 45% and engagement in social activities by 55%. In a surprise finding the use of a computer late in life reduced MCI development by 53%. These are very significant observations. This would be equivalent to highly effective anti-Alzheimer’s drugs.

Conclusion

If you stimulate your mind in older age, even browsing on the computer, this will help you to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Lifestyle factors contributing to Alzheimer’s

a) Sugar consumption: Sugar consumption and too much starchy food like pasta (which gets metabolized within 30 minutes into sugar) causes oxidization of LDL cholesterol and plaque formation of all the blood vessels including the ones going to the brain. On the long-term this causes memory loss due to a lack of nutrients and oxygen flowing into the brain.

b) Lack of exercise: Lack of exercise is an independent risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise increases the blood supply of the brain, strengthens neural connections and leads to growth of neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain. Exercise increases mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins.

c) Sleep deprivation leads to memory loss, but so does the use of aspartame, the artificial sweetener of diet sodas. Make your own homemade lemonade. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Add mineral water to fill an 8 oz. glass. Add a tiny bit of stevia extract for sweetening. Stir and enjoy. Stevia has been in use for thousands of years.

5. Hormone changes

A lack of testosterone in men and estrogen in women interferes with cognition and memory. For this reason it is important after menopause and andropause (=the male menopause) to replace what is missing with the help of a knowledgeable health professional.

Progesterone is manufactured inside the brain, spinal cord and nerves from its precursor, pregnenolone, but in women it also comes from the ovaries until the point of menopause. The myelin sheaths of nerves requires progesterone and progesterone also has a neuroprotective function. In menopausal women bioidentical progesterone is a part of Alzheimer’s prevention.

Melatonin is a hormone, a powerful antioxidant and a neurotransmitter at the same time. It helps in the initiation of sleep, stimulates the immune system and protects from the toxic effects of cobalt. Lab tests in Alzheimer’s patients found elevated values. In an aging person it is wise to use melatonin at bedtime as a sleep aid and to preserve your brain.

6. Genetic risk of Alzheimer’s

At the 22nd Annual A4M Las Vegas Conference in mid December 2014 Dr. Pamela Smith gave a presentation entitled ”How To Maintain Memory At Any Age”. She pointed out that there are about 5 genes that have been detected that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and in addition the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4). About 30% of people carry this gene, yet only about 10% get Alzheimer’s disease, which shows how important lifestyle factors are (in medical circles physicians call this the “epigenetic factors”) to suppress the effect of the APOE4 gene. She also stated that our genes contribute only about 20% to the overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This leaves us with 80% of Alzheimer’s cases where we can use the brain nutrients and hormones discussed above and exercise to improve brain function.

7. Vitamin D3 protects your brain from Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease of old age. We know that it is much more common in patients with type 2 diabetes where insulin levels are high. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease can be termed type 3 diabetes.

The resulting neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-beta deposits damage nerve cells, which are responsible for the memory loss and the profound personality changes in these patients.

What does vitamin D3 have to do with this?

A 2014 study showed that a low vitamin D level was associated with a high risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically, the findings were as follows.

  • Vitamin D level of less than 10 ng/ml: 122% increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Vitamin D level 10 to 20 ng/ml: 51% increased risk of Alzheimer’s

The same research group found in two trials that vitamin D deficiency leads to visual memory decline, but not to verbal memory decline.

Generally supplements of vitamin D3 of 5000 IU to 8000 IU are the norm now. But some patients are poor absorbers and they may require 15,000 IU per day. The physician can easily determine what the patient needs in the dosage of vitamin D3 by doing repeat vitamin D blood levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels). The goal is to reach a level of 50-80 ng/ml. The optimal level with regard to nmol/L is 80 to 200 (according to Rocky Mountain Analytical, Calgary, AB, Canada).

8. Avoid sugar overload

We already mentioned sugar consumption under point 4. But here I am mentioning it again because of the insulin reaction. An overload of refined carbs leads to an overstimulation of the pancreas pouring out insulin. Too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia) causes hormonal disbalance and leads to diabetes type 3, the more modern name for Alzheimer’s. All starch is broken down by amylase into sugar, which means that anybody who consumes starchy food gets a sugar rush as well. Too much sugar in the blood oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation in the body. The consequence of chronic inflammation are the following conditions: hardening of the arteries, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s due to brain atrophy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

Conclusion

In the beginning we learnt about a failed phase 3 trial regarding an anti-Alzheimer’s drug. Next we reviewed several factors that can all lead to Alzheimer’s and that have been researched for many years. It would be foolish to think that we could just swallow a pill and overlook the real causes of Alzheimer’s disease. I believe there will never be a successful pill that can solve the increasing Alzheimer’s problem. It is time that we face the causes of Alzheimer’s. This means cutting down sugar to normalize your insulin levels.

Lifestyle changes necessary to avoid Alzheimer’s

We need to supplement with vitamin D3 because we know that it helps. For women in menopause or men in andropause it is time to replace the missing hormones with bioidentical ones. We need to handle stress and avoid sleep deprivation. And, yes we need to exercise regularly. Following a sensible diet like the Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet makes sense. And let us keep our minds stimulated. Chances are, when we do all of this that we will not need any Alzheimer’s pill. This is not good news for the drug companies, but will be very good news for you. Last but not least, there are no side effects, only health benefits!

Additional resource on how to preserve your memory.

Oct
30
2015

There Is Help For Hair Loss

It is good to know that there is help for hair loss. One area where aging shows is the head! Often people who are aging are experiencing hair loss. Some individuals have a genetic trait that makes them vulnerable to early hair loss, while others are keeping their hair until a ripe old age. With regard to hair pigment it is similar: some people keep their own hair color well into their 40’s or 50’s, but later the grey hair shows. Loss of hair color is about loss of hair pigment. One or more genes regulate whether or not we lose the hair pigment early or not. While there is not much we can do about our hair pigment other than coloring our hair every 3-4 weeks, there is something we can do about hair loss on our scalp.

Androgenic alopecia

Physicians call male and female hair loss “androgenetic alopecia”. It occurs in individuals who are genetically exposed. Interestingly baldness is rare in Chinese, Japanese and in Native American populations. Baldness more commonly affects men of Caucasian descent.

Onset of hair loss

In people who are prone to hair loss baldness typically starts in the temporal areas.

The genetic factors that lead to baldness can be inherited either from father or mother’s side. They are polygenic, meaning that there is not only one cause of hair loss. Gene frequency is most commonly associated with Caucasians. In Africans the frequency is lower and lower still in American Indians, Asians, and the Inuits.

Types of hair loss

The Norwood scale is used as classification of hair loss in men. In women hair loss is classified using the Ludwig and Savin scale. This helps to record the findings of a hair examination and is useful for research purposes as well.

Hormonal factors regarding male pattern baldness

There are several hormonal factors that are involved in the development of male pattern baldness. 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone (T) to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is more powerful than testosterone, causes shortening of the hair cycle and miniaturization of hair in the balding areas. After several years those who have genetically predisposed androgen receptors in balding areas come down with baldness. There are two isoenzymes of 5-alpha reductase, type 1 and type 2. Individuals born without type 2  5-alpha reductase do not develop androgenic baldness.

Aromatase can cause baldness

Another factor for baldness can be an enzyme, aromatase, located in the fatty tissue that converts testosterone into estrogenic hormones. A lack of testosterone can lead to baldness by this mechanism. Many men in their 50’s and 60’s who are overweight or obese are balding because of this mechanism. The other mechanism, as explained above is via DHT in genetically susceptible men. This process starts to occur mostly in individuals who are in their forties.

Treatment of hair loss

Mild cases of hair loss

This may respond to topical treatment with minoxidil that can be used on the scalp as liquid or hair foam. Systemic treatment in men is possible with finasteride (Propecia) or Dutasteride (Avodart). It helps to block the hormonal pathways regarding 5-alpha reductase and DHT that leads to baldness. In aging men in their 50’s and 60’s it may be that testosterone levels are low. Blood tests can test for this: the total testosterone level should be above 500 ng/dL. If it is less, testosterone replacement by bioidentical testosterone cream or by injection should be considered and usually works quite well with respect to regrowth of scalp and body hair.

Moderately severe hair loss

This can be treated with PRP (platelet rich plasma). This treatment modality cures about 30% of hair loss. There have to be enough hair-rejuvenating stem cells around the bald skin to stimulate hair growth. However, when baldness has set in for some time in an area of the scalp with previous hair growth, there comes a point where the hair follicles die off and even stimulation with PRP will not help. When dermatologists used extracellular matrix (called “A cell”) in combination with PRP the success rate for hair growth in a bald area jumps up to 70 to 80%. The A cell material recruits stem cells from the blood that create hair follicles in the bald skin starting hair growth again.

Severe hair loss

A cell and PRP treatment are not sufficient for this. It requires more invasive treatment: the bald skin usually does not contain any hair follicles. So, what can one do in such cases? Dermatologists detected that dense hair from the back of the head (nuchal area) is transplantable to a bald skin area. It will usually grow very well there. In the beginning of doing hair transplants little discs were transplanted and this looked at times like checkered hair growth in the previously bald area. Newer research showed that miniaturized transplants with perhaps three hair follicles harvested under the microscope from the dense area and transplanted into the bald area give a smooth, natural looking appearance. These are “follicular unit hair transplants”. Nowadays hair transplant physicians will only do this type of hair transplant procedure because of the superior cosmetic result.

There Is Help For Hair Loss

There Is Help For Hair Loss

Conclusion

Baldness is no longer a stigma in today’s society, particularly with males. So many men just shave off whatever hair they still have and live with baldness. However, other men and women want something done about the bald scalp; they can do so in various stages, first treat topically with minoxidil, then by trying PRP or PRP with the A cell treatment. Finally follicular unit hair transplants can restore a full head of hair where there was baldness before. In women with crown baldness follicular unit hair transplants can be very useful. This elegant method gets rid of this annoying crown baldness, and women who went for this procedure seem to be very happy with the results.

More info on hair restoration.

More info on hair loss.

References

Ref. 1: Hair disorders, from: “Lookingbill and Marks’ Principles of Dermatology” Fifth Edition: James G. Marks MD and Jeffrey J. Miller MD, Copyright © 2013, Elsevier Inc.

Sep
25
2015

Testosterone

One of the driving hormones in a man is testosterone. We also know that with age this hormone level falls. The lesser known fact is the importance of monitoring testosterone levels in aging males. This way they have the choice of intervening with the aging process. Here are the facts about testosterone and about replacement of it when it is low. I will also discuss the anxieties of the medical profession to deal with this. Some feel uncomfortable about hormone replacements.

Androgen receptors contained in key tissues

Androgen receptors are situated in the key organs like the brain, heart, muscles, bones, kidneys, fat cells, genitals, hair follicles and skin. They respond to all male hormones, called androgens, like testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and DHEA. DHT is produced by metabolizing testosterone with the help of an enzyme, called 5α-reductase in the adrenal glands. This is responsible for hair loss in males and some females. There is a genetic factor for this. It is important that the man continues to have all tissues stimulated by his male hormones when he ages or the key organs mentioned are going to suffer.

A lack of testosterone as the man ages (around 55 to 65) leads to a slowdown in thinking, osteoporosis in the bones, muscle atrophy (melting in of muscle tissue), and a lack of sex drive. Mood swings can turn the male into the “grumpy old man”. The skin gets thinned and is more brittle.

Animal experiments have shown that the development of fatty streaks in blood vessels happens at a higher rate in castrated animals. The more encouraging finding in these animals is the fact that this condition is reversible by replacement of the male hormone. In healthy males of a younger age all organs are working well. The problems starts when males age and the hormone regulation in the brain slows down, which ultimately leads to andropause in males, the equivalent of menopause in women. When the physician replaces testosterone in an aging man who has low testosterone levels, the stimulation of androgen receptors in key organs, which I mentioned before return organ function to normal.

Reluctance of physicians to prescribe testosterone

In the past medical students were taught that testosterone is causing prostate cancer. This was based on old observations by Dr. Huggins, a Canadian born surgeon who practiced in Chicago, that orchiectomy improved the survival of advanced prostate cancer patients by a small percentage. Dr. Lee pointed out that Dr. Huggins neglected to realize that testicles make both the male hormone and small amounts of estrogen.

History of hormone ablation therapy for prostate cancer

When an orchiectomy was done (because of the belief that testosterone production was the culprit) inadvertently the real cause of prostate cancer (an estrogen surplus) was also removed thus improving the survival of these patients somewhat. Nowadays we have more sophisticated testing methods. Dr. Abraham Morgentaler (Ref. 1) has compiled a lot of evidence about the importance of testosterone in men. He proved, based on a lot more modern references that it is not testosterone that is the cause of prostate cancer. We know now that estrogen dominance is responsible for prostate cancer and that this develops as stated above because of the low testosterone and low progesterone during the male menopause (also called “andropause”).

Rebuttal of Dr. Huggins’ research

Dr. Morgentaler, a urologist from Harvard University has taken prostate cancer patients and put them on testosterone. To his and everyone else’s surprise testosterone treated prostate cancer patients improved, their prostate cancer either disappeared or become much less aggressive, which can be measured with the Gleason score based on its microscopic appearance. The result was that they did better, not worse on male hormone replacement.

Older physicians still hold on to the belief that testosterone would make prostate cancer worse

Unfortunately the history of testosterone, orchiectomy and prostate cancer as explained led to confusion among the medical profession. We now know that testosterone is innocent with respect to prostate cancer, testicular cancer or any other cancer. But some of the old-timers among the physicians doggedly hold on to their false belief from the past. If a man asks one of these physicians for testosterone replacement he may not only be told that he/she could not do that, but will also receive a tirade of false statements about testosterone.

No blood clots with male hormone replacement

We dealt with the myth of prostate cancer that is not related to treatment with the male hormone. There is another myth that older physicians often cite: that testosterone would supposedly be causing blood clots. At the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (Texas, USA) a large study was done involving 30,572 men, ages 40 years and older. All had venous thromboembolism and received an anticoagulant drug or an intravascular vena cava filter following their diagnosis. Because they also had a low testosterone level physicians gave them testosterone replacement therapy. In addition, they followed them and monitored them for further venous thromboembolism. None were found in any of the men. The conclusion of the investigators was that filling a testosterone prescription was not associated with any clotting condition.

Aging and testosterone

The Massachusetts Male Aging Study showed that testosterone has been declining in the male population over a period of 20 years. Partially there is a relationship to aging. Otherwise estrogen-like substances or xenoestrogens, which are environmental factors, contribute to it as well. Although age is a factor, there is so much variation from man to man, that it is best to just measure testosterone and determine whether the mail hormone level is above or below 500 ng/dL. This seems to be the most reliable indicator in determining whether a man needs hormone replacement, apart from symptoms due to testosterone loss. These are: increased risks for prostate problems and/or cancer, cardiovascular disease, loss of bone density, a rise in cholesterol and urinary dysfunction. Dr. Randolph describes this in detail and also discusses who needs bioidentical testosterone replacement.

The aging male and hormone replacement

A New England Journal of Medicine study from September 2013 explained that apart from testosterone the male body needs a small amount of estradiol, the female hormone. The enzyme aromatase within the fatty tissue achieves this. But the physician must prescribe testosterone replacement as the bioidentical testosterone, so that a small amount of it converts into estradiol by the action of aromatase. Synthetic male hormone compounds with chemical side chains do not provide this small estrogen metabolism.

After a review of the hard facts about prostate cancer risk, it is now clear that older men get prostate cancer because testosterone in their blood is low and their body weight elevation. The extra fat converts androgens by the aromatase into estradiol. This leads to estrogen dominance. This causes breast cancer and uterine cancer in women, prostate cancer in men. When the total testosterone level in a man is lower than 500 ng/dL it is a sign that he needs male hormones to protect his prostate from prostate cancer.

Cardiovascular disease

The cardiovascular system has a lot of androgen receptors on its cell surfaces. It is important that the man continues to have the proper stimulus from androgenic hormones (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and DHEA). This will allow him to have proper contractility of heart cells. It will also allow for relaxation of smooth muscle cells in the arteries to control blood pressure. With a lack of male hormones there is hardening of the arteries, loss of muscle cells in the heart muscle and increase of blood pressure. So far researchers have only noticed an association of low testosterone with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. It has not been proven that it is the cause (so webmd.com says). But careful replacement with bioidentical testosterone helps patients to get rid of their symptoms, have the energy to exercise and feel better.

Is it safe to replace missing hormones in a male?

Long-term studies have already shown that hormone replacement saves lives, but the medical profession is slow to accept this (Ref.1). Here is a link that explains this a bit further.

If a man who is low in male hormones wonders whether it would be worthwhile to go on testosterone therapy, here is the clear answer: would you like to have a 47% lowered risk of dying, a reduction of 18% in heart attacks and 30% reduction in the risk for a stroke? This is what a 14-year follow-up study published in the European Heart Journal in August, 2015 found.

The same is true for cardiovascular disease as stated above: if the total testosterone level in a man is lower than 500 ng/dL it is a sign that he needs testosterone replacement therapy to protect his cardiovascular system to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Loss of bone density

Older men can get osteoporosis, which can lead to compression fractures in the spine. In addition fractures can also occur in the hip, the ankle or wrist. Current thinking is that with the lack of male hormones there is also a lack of estradiol via the aromatase pathway in fatty tissue. This small amount of estradiol is able to prevent osteoporosis all his life until testosterone drops with older age. Once again it is important to monitor his male hormone level and replace with bioidentical testosterone when it is lower than 500 ng/dL.

Rise in cholesterol

With obesity there is a metabolic change, called metabolic syndrome. This leads to an elevation of LDL cholesterol, which is a direct risk for hardening of the arteries. In an obese older man with low male hormones there is a double risk. First, there is the low testosterone and secondly the metabolic syndrome, if he is overweight or obese. As a result the heart attack and stroke rates in obese men with low testosterone are much higher. In obese men with normal male hormone levels there are less heart attacks and strokes. Men with obesity need to lose weight by changing their diet to healthier eating habits and starting a regular exercise program with swimming and walking. At the same time those with a testosterone level of lower than 500 ng/dL should have bioidentical testosterone replacement.

Urinary dysfunction

A hyperactive bladder, dribbling, hesitancy and leaking bladder can all be part of male hormone deficiency. But this is not that easy to diagnose. A full consultation by a urologist may be necessary to assess various other causes that could hide behind these symptoms. Part of the work-up though is to measure the total testosterone level and replace what is missing.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease can be due to a lack of male hormones. It is therefore important to measure the total testosterone level in a man. If it is lower than 500 ng/dL, as mentioned before , it means he needs male hormone replacement therapy. This will prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Burnout

According to Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Belgium, there are several hormones that can be missing in a person with burnout: a lack of cortisol, thyroid, growth hormone, testosterone/estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin. The middle-aged manager with burnout would have other hormones missing apart from testosterone. The physician needs to order blood tests to measure whether other hormones are missing. Whatever is low needs replacement with bioidentical hormones.

Some details regarding testosterone measurements and delivery

The deeper you delve into male hormone replacement, the more details there are to consider.

First, there is a sex hormone-binding globulin that is mostly produced by the liver and circulating in the blood.

It is like a storage form of testosterone and only 1 to 2% of the total testosterone is unbound. This is called the free or bioavailable testosterone. Some physicians measure just that portion of testosterone.

Hormone replacement in a man

Second, when it comes to replacement of testosterone in a man who is deficient for testosterone, there are several delivery systems, which some people find a little confusing. There are testosterone gels with less than optimal absorption. Another application are creams that compounding pharmacies provide. The patient absorbs these creams are usually well. But some men do not absorb either creams or gels. They need testosterone injections or testosterone pellets. The goal is to replace testosterone in a manner that there is a fairly equal amount of testosterone available at all times. Some men achieve that only with testosterone pellets, others with testosterone cypionate injections. For this reason blood test that determine the levels of free testosterone are necessary.

Testosterone

Testosterone

Conclusion

Testosterone is a key hormone in the male that requires monitoring, particularly when he is aging. A knowledgeable physician or naturopath needs to take a careful history of his symptoms. If blood tests show that the total testosterone is less than 500 ng/dL the physician needs to replace with bioidentical testosterone.

 

References

Ref.1: Dr. Abraham Morgentaler: “Testosterone for Life – recharge your vitality, sex drive, and overall health” McGraw-Hill, 2009

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Nov
05
2014

How To Cope With Time Switches

In Europe daylight saving time begins on the last Sunday in March and wintertime starts on the last Sunday of October. Here in North America we start daylight saving time on the second Sunday of March and end it on the first Sunday of November each year.

Having gone through this exercise just last weekend I thought it would be worthwhile to comment in a blog how our bodies, particularly our hormones are affected by this.

You may have heard about the circadian rhythm with respect to hormones. The changes of the sun causing the day/night cycle have profound influences on our hormones, called the diurnal hormone changes or the circadian rhythm.

How do circadian rhythms work?

In the morning when you open your eyes, light enters our eyes and is registered in the hypothalamus (suprachiasmatic nuclei, see Ref.1). There are also links from the hypothalamus to the pineal gland, where melatonin is synthetized and stored. The light signal stops the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland, although it is still being produced during the day in the pineal gland, but stored there until the evening hours set in. You may have noticed that you start yawning when the light dims in the evening. That’s when melatonin is released into your system to let you know its time to go to sleep.

Of course, we have electrical light and can turn night into day if we choose to! This works for a limited time, but eventually tiredness sets in, and melatonin wins the upper hand. Melatonin is the master hormone of the circadian rhythm.

It is interesting to note that cortisol does exactly the opposite. Cortisol is the adrenal gland hormone that helps us cope with stress. When we are fully awake, we need cortisol to cope with stress. Melatonin inhibits cortisol secretion and cortisol inhibits melatonin secretion, so they are natural opponents working together for your common good. This is part of the circadian rhythm. We can measure these hormones and this is how researchers have found out how this works.

How To Cope With Time Switches

How To Cope With Time Switches

Time switches affect the circadian rhythm

When we switched time back by one hour on our wristwatch and clocks, the internal time in our body did not accept that right away. The body needs to gradually adjust to this by reading the external signals: when are we opening our eyes? What is the light intensity when we get up, what is the light intensity when we go to sleep?  Some people find it easy to adjust; others find it very difficult to adjust. Some individuals breeze through the adjustment process in a day or two. For others it can as much as 1 or 2 weeks before the hormonal adjustment is completed.

Symptoms of problems adjusting the circadian rhythm

Symptoms due to time switch are a feeling of hangover on the first one to two days after the switch. This is despite you having gotten enough sleep, but the quality of sleep was not the same as before the time switch. Your head feels heavy, you are irritable, and you may feel mildly depressed. You also may find it more difficult to concentrate on one thing and you experience fatigue. Some experience insomnia. What is behind this is a disturbance of your cortisol levels. Your cortisol level is normally highest in the early morning hours, just before you wake up. As a male your testosterone level is also highest when you wake up thanks to the circadian rhythm. Both cortisol and testosterone have been built up during your deepest sleep. In women the ovarian hormones have not only a monthly rhythm, but also a 24 hour diurnal rhythm, based on the internal 24 hour clock. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are intimately involved in both sexes regarding this diurnal rhythm and are in communication with the pineal gland that produces melatonin to regulate all of the major hormone systems. So, when we switch our watch back by one hour in the fall or forward by one hour in the spring, our body clock is out of sync with the new time that rules the world. This state of being out of sync may last for a few days. We still get tired according to the old time and we still wake up according to the old time until our internal clock has readjusted. People have genetic differences on how quickly they readjust.

Newer research on how the body tells time is summarized here.

Jet lag

When we travel eastward or westward through time zones a phenomenon of being “out of sync” occurs as well, very similar to what happens with time switches. It is the same re-adjusting process of the internal circadian rhythm that our bodies have to come to terms with. Some people are affected more when they travel west though time zones, and it may take them longer to adjust to it compared to traveling east. But other people complain that for them it is just the opposite, and traveling east is the problem for them. North-south travel does not cause jet lag as the internal time and the external time remain synchronized. A very similar phenomenon is happening with the spring and fall time switches. Some people find it nervier when in spring the clock is advanced by one hour and others complain that fall is their difficult time when the time is switched back by one hour. There are genetic differences of how we adjust with our internal clocks.

Shift workers

Shift workers experience problems with the circadian rhythm as well. The switch between working day shifts and night shifts leads to a condition called “shift-work sleep disorder” (Ref.3). Similar to jet lag this is due to the fact that synchronization between the body’s inner clock and external cues are disrupted, and not enough time is allowed for recovery. It would be much more cost effective, if unions and employers allowed those who are naturally born to cope with night time shift to work those shifts and allow those who are sensitive to shift-work sleep disorder to work only day shifts. We live in an age of political correctness, but we tend to overlook how our bodies work.

What you can do to ease yourself into the time switch

1. As there is a lack of deep sleep with the time switch, it is not a bad idea to take a short nap when you feel tired during the day. Catch a nap on the weekend or on a day, when you are off work! It’s good for you! This will build up your adrenal gland hormones and give you the extra surge of energy you are craving for.

2. At the end of the day though, you need to go to bed according to the new time to train your pineal gland and your entire hormone system about the new time situation. Your body needs the cues from you, when you start and end your day, so that it can sync your internal clock with the outside time.

3. A simple remedy that fits right into your hormone rhythm is to take a melatonin tablet (about 3 mg for an adult), available at your health food store or drug store 30 minutes before bedtime. Ref. 2 states that melatonin “restores circadian rhythm“. This will help your circadian hormone rhythm by giving it an evening boost of melatonin telling your system it is time to go to sleep. At that time when you close your eyes the signals through the optic nerve are shut down, giving the circadian rhythm yet another signal about what time it is. In just a few days (for very sensitive people in 1 to 2 weeks) your entire hormone system including the circadian 24-hour undulations will be reset. Now your internal clock has been reset and is in sync until the next time switch.

More about hormones: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/introduction-hormones/

References:

1. Melmed: “Control of Hormone Secretion” in: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed.Copyright 2011 Saunders, An Imprint of Elsevier

2. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. Copyright 2012 Saunders, An Imprint of Elsevier

3. Daroff: Bradley’s Neurology in Clinical Practice, 6th ed. Copyright 2012 Saunders, An Imprint of Elsevier

Last edited Nov. 5, 2014

May
10
2014

The Full Story About Testosterone

Much has been written about what happens when women get into menopause. This begs the question: do men experience a change of life? As a matter of fact, they do. It is called “andropause”, and they can experience problems as a result. Here is a study from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Sept. 2013) describing in detail what happens when men get into andropause (the male equivalent of the menopause).

We know from other studies that in obese men testosterone is converted into estrogen because of the enzyme aromatase that converts testosterone into estrogen resulting in erectile dysfunction and loss of sex drive. In lean men above the age of 55 there is a true testosterone reduction because the testicles produce less testosterone. This results in less sex drive, moodiness and lack of energy. But these men will do well with bioidentical testosterone replacement.

Main findings of the Massachusetts General Hospital study:

  1. Testosterone was responsible for thigh muscle development and leg press strength, for erectile function and sexual desire.
  2. Surprisingly, estradiol (the main estrogen component in both sexes) plays a significant part in sexual desire in the male. This became particularly apparent in the post-andropause male who desired hormone replacement. When bioidentical testosterone is used to replace what’s missing there was no problem with sexual desire or erectile function as a small amount of the testosterone was aromatized into estradiol. The researchers were able to measure both testosterone and estradiol levels.
  3. Here is a surprising fact: a lack of estrogen leads to abdominal obesity. This could also be verified by hormone measurements.
  4. In the past doctors used synthetic testosterone products like methyltestosterone, danazol, oxandrolone, testosterone propionate, testosterone cypionate or testosterone enanthate. The problem with these synthetic testosterone products is that the body cannot metabolize a portion of them into estrogen that is desirable for a normal sex drive, so the testosterone compounds alone are not doing their job as well as the bioidentical testosterone that the body can aromatize.

In obese men the problem is that there is too much estrogen in the system, which leads to a disbalance of the hormones in the male with a relative lack of testosterone. Overweight and obese men produce significant amounts of estrogen through aromatase located in the fatty tissue. Aromatase converts testosterone and other male type hormones, called androgens, into estrogen. Excessive levels of estrogen cause breast growth, muscle weakness, lead to abdominal fat accumulation, heart disease and strokes. Dr. Lee described what happens in men who enter andropause years ago as indicated under this link.

The Full Story About Testosterone

The Full Story About Testosterone

Testosterone to estrogen ratio:

Dr. Lee indicated that in his opinion saliva hormone testing is more reliable than blood tests (Ref. 1). One of the advantages of doing saliva hormone tests of estrogen and testosterone is that you can calculate directly the ratios of these two hormones. In hormonally normal younger males the testosterone to estrogen ratio is larger than 20 – 40 (Ref.2). The testosterone to estrogen ratio in obese men is typically less than 20 meaning it is too low. But lean men in andropause produce too little testosterone and their testosterone to estrogen ratio is also less than 20, because they may still have enough estrogen in their system from aromatase in the fatty tissue, but they are lacking testosterone due to a lack of its production in the testicles (Ref. 1 and 2).

When a man in andropause is given bioidentical hormone replacement with a testosterone gel or bioidentical testosterone cream this is absorbed into the blood and body tissues and then partially metabolized into a small amount of estrogen. This can be seen when saliva hormone tests are done; a higher level of testosterone is detected and much lower estrogen level so that the testosterone to estrogen ratio is now 20 to 40 or higher and the affected person will no longer be the “grumpy old man” that had been a source of distress to his partner before.

This New England Journal of Medicine study is important because it confirmed what anti-aging physicians had been saying for years: a small amount of estrogen is necessary for the male for bone health as estrogen receptors will regulate the bone density, it also helps for a normal sex drive. The same is true for women: a small amount of the opposite hormone (testosterone) will help a woman’s sex drive, but she needs the right mix of progesterone to estrogen (a progesterone to estrogen ratio of 200:1 using saliva tests) to feel perfectly normal as a women.

Health and well-being of a man depend on normal testosterone levels:

It is important to realize that testosterone is not only supporting a man’s sex drive and libido, key organs like the heart, the brain and blood vessels contain testosterone receptors as well. The body of a man was designed to respond to testosterone all along. It is when testosterone production is no longer keeping up that premature aging becomes apparent, as the target organs do no longer receive the proper signals.

A healthy heart in a man depends on regular exercise and testosterone stimulation whether he is young, middle aged or old. The same is true for the lining of the arteries where testosterone receptors are present to help with the normal adjustment to exercise and relaxation. The brain cells have receptors for all of the sex hormones and in a man they are used to higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of progesterone and estrogen. If you take the balance away, the aging man will feel miserable and grumpy. Depression will set in. Here is a brief review how one man’s life has been changed by testosterone replacement.

So, bioidentical hormone replacement is not just a matter of replacing one hormone, you need to pay attention to all of the hormones. Lifestyle issues enter the equation as well. I have reviewed the issue of bioidentical hormone replacement for women and men in this blog.

Conclusion:

When a man reaches the age of 55 or older there comes a point where a lack of testosterone and estrogen sets in. It is wise to start doing intermittent blood or saliva hormone tests before this point is reached in order to gage when bioidentical hormone replacement treatment should be given. Along with an assessment regarding the hormone status it would be wise to also assess lifestyle issues as often other factors play a role in premature aging. I have reviewed these factors systematically in a recent publication (Ref. 3). It is best to combine bioidentical hormone replacement with life style interventions to achieve optimal preservation of a man’s health.

More information about male menopause (=andropause): http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/hypogonadism/secondary-hypogonadism/male-menopause/

References:

  1. John R. Lee, MD: “Hormone Balance for men- what your doctor may not tell you about prostate health and natural hormone supplementation”. 2003 by Hormones Etc.
  2. George Gillson, MD, PhD, Tracy Marsden, BSc Pharm: “You’ve Hit Menopause. Now What?” 2004 Rocky Mountain Analytical Corp. Chapter 9: Male Hormone Balance (p.118-148).
  3. Dr.Schilling’s book, March 2014, Amazon.com:“A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling”.

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

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Apr
12
2014

Lead Still Poisoning Us

We are living in an environment that puts emphasis on quality control, and companies around us take pride in their high quality products, supervised by the FDA. This is how it ideally should be. But is it really? Unfortunately not!

I read the headlines about lipsticks on April 4, 2014 and could not believe it!

When it comes to skin care or cosmetic products, things start to get scary.  Skin is not a barrier, but it is an organ of our body. From skin cream and ointment applications in medicine it is known that pharmaceutical compounds can be applied to the skin, and this way the body can readily absorb active substances.

When it comes to cosmetics, the skin areas to which cosmetics are applied have softer skin, for example the mouth. The vulnerable skin of the lips can readily absorb any chemical substance, and this is where health concerns get even more serious.

In 2010 as the above link shows the FDA determined that all of the “400 lipsticks tested had traces of lead in them, ranging from 0.9 to 3.06 ppm. Another study from California noted that there were other toxic metals in lip sticks and lip glosses containing chromium, cadmium, manganese, aluminum in addition to lead. Even to the unconcerned this sounds like a precarious cocktail of noxious substances! On June 1, 2013 I wrote a blog about toxins in the bathroom. I mentioned the dirty dozen of chemicals that repeatedly are found in cosmetics. With this new information of traces of lead still being in cosmetics, more so than previously reported, women need to be more careful about the choice of lipsticks that they are using.

1.History of lipsticks:

This overview explains that the long-lasting lipstick was only invented around the 1950’s (“Sticks on you, not on him” was the slogan).

Traces of lead were often recorded, but not really thought to be that dangerous. The thinking of the FDA at that time was that children needed to be protected from lead in house paints, but nobody mentioned that lead was part of the red pigment and therefore had to be part of a lipstick. The FDA did know this, but the concentration was supposed to be so small and absorption was thought to be negligible, so considered to be safe for an adult.

Lead Still Poisoning Us

Lead Still Poisoning Us

2. Evidence of considerable absorption of lead:

We know from several studies summarized in this link that various components of cosmetics including lipsticks and lip-glosses get absorbed through the skin. Lead is no exception to this. A 2011 study showed in children in Africa that lead-containing cosmetics for tribal ceremonies in children had higher lead concentrations in their blood than children who did not use these cosmetics.

When doing a PubMed review on the subject I came across a very interesting study: In India there is a practice that parents apply kajal (also called kohl or surma cosmetic) around their eyes, on old traditional practice. Unfortunately this is a lead-containing cosmetic, which is absorbed into the blood and can cause lead poisoning. According to this ancient belief this application of cosmetics around the eyes would keep their eyes cool and clean and is supposed to improve vision, strengthen the eyes and prevent eye diseases. None of these belief are compatible with Western medicine (although a lot of the Ayurveda medicine is valid).

In another 2010 study done in the mountainous Aseer region in the Southwest of Saudi Arabia here there is pristine air quality, 176 pregnant patients with a single baby were followed to see whether there was an effect with regard to lead poisoning in the offspring. Two groups of women were identified, those with lead levels of more than 200 mcg/L in the blood and another group with less than 200 mcg/L. The researchers noted that there was no difference with regard to prematurity, size of the baby or premature rupture of membranes (premature birth).

The conclusion of this study was that there was significant absorption of lead from 100% lead sulfide eye cosmetic “kohl” only on those who used it. To my surprise nobody mentioned anything about the lead levels in the children, which is an example of compartmentalization of science. Common sense would dictate that these children who were at higher risk from mothers with over 200 mcg/L should have received chelation treatments to remove lead (we do this in Western medicine!).

3. Different lip sticks and lip glosses analyzed in Europe and in the US:

A European study showed that 31% of lipsticks and 4% of lip glosses tested positive for lead. All of them had less than 0.88 mg/kg of lead (less than 1 mg/kg). Pink lipstick or lip gloss (0.81 and 0.38mg/kg) tested lower than purple lipstick or lip gloss (0.88 and 0.37mg/kg) and red (0.58 and 0.25mg/kg), but purple tested the highest! I did not know that until now when I researched this.  On average the tests show that the gloss has half the concentration of the lipstick.

Don’t be fooled by the difference in recommended safe levels in Canada (10 mg/kg) and Germany (20 mg/kg). Germany has a very powerful chemical industry with lobbyists that likely lead to this higher “safe” level. In Canada it is the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada. No country got it right so far:  A zero tolerance (meaning a blood level of 0 mg/kg in babies and adults alike) is the only solution for humans. A little bit over a long time can lead to chronic chronic lead poisoning.

One other interesting tidbit for those who need to apply something to their lips:

The more expensive lipsticks had much less lead in it than the cheaper varieties (don’t buy the dollar store brands).

Contrast this to an FDA initiated study between 2009 and 2012, published in 2012 that showed that the average lipstick concentration in 400 lipsticks tested  was 1.11 mg/kg, but the highest concentration was 7.19 mg/kg and 13 of them tested 3.06 mg/kg. Here is another review that shows more details (ppm equals mg/kg, so you can compare directly with the figures above. As stated before, in my opinion and that of toxicologists around the world who are the real experts in this a “0 mg/kg” level (no lead in the body) should be the acceptable norm!

Only organic lipsticks and lip-glosses are recommended, if you must wear any of such products. Here is a helpful blog that tells you more positive news (lead and chemical free products).

4. What are the effects of chronic low lead exposure?

Adult lead toxicity is not as common as in the past. Painters in the decades leading up to the 1970’s when laws became more stringent were the ones mostly affected (Ref.1). Keep in mind that more than 30 million tons of lead was released into the air in the US before the lead ban finally remedied this in the 1970’s.  This phasing out was completed in 1995. The mean blood lead levels of Americans declined by 35% since. The EPA is monitoring lead levels in public water systems.

Lead is a nerve poison. It leads to fatigue, insomnia, irritability, lethargy, headaches, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and tremor. It can also affect the nerves of the extremities, more so in the arms than the legs, which was significant in the past century among painters using lead paints. (“Upper extremity paresis” found in painters). Chronic lead poisoning targets the kidneys and the bone marrow. In the kidneys leakage of the filtration units, called glomeruli, leads to loss of microglobulins that can be measured in the urine among other tests. Above a level of 30 mcg/dL (this is the same as above 300 mcg/L) electrophysiological studies reveal often the ulnar nerve conduction is disturbed, which is the cause for the arm weakness in painters. The bone marrow toxicity can be seen in stippling of red blood cells and anemia develops subsequently. High blood pressure and fertility issues are also common (low sperm count in men, higher rate of spontaneous abortions and stillbirths in women). The gums around the teeth show lead lines (blue discoloration).  I will not get into lead toxicity in children, as this is a big topic of its own. Needless to say symptoms are much worse as any pediatrician can tell you. It goes without saying that should you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor and have appropriate tests done.

5. Treatment and prevention:

As we do not see acute lead poisoning as much as in the past, except sadly to say still in development countries and highly industrialized areas with lead emissions into the air, I like to emphasize the importance of prevention here.

a)    If you absolutely must have make-up and/or lip sticks or lip gloss, at least go for the expensive, organic products. You owe it to yourself. However, having said that keep in mind that anything you put on your skin anywhere is absorbed to a certain percentage. So, why mess with your body’s metabolism? I really question this. For your skin you can use a product called “Youth serum” from LifeExtension, where only a few drops will suffice to cover your face and neck with a thin film. Within a few seconds this is absorbed into the skin and it will stimulate your skin to grow where wrinkles are, so the wrinkles flatten out in time.

b)    Keep in mind that skin appearance is hormone dependent, males need testosterone as they age and women need bioidentical progesterone. The first link under point 2 above claims that progesterone would be cancer producing. This is not true: it is progestin, a synthetic copy of progesterone that does this. So, bioidentical progesterone in cosmetics would be cancer preventing in women (men should stay away from a woman who has applied this for at least two hours as skin transfer will block testosterone production). Worse still: if a manufacturer uses progestin (the synthetic version), the traces of it over a long period of time will act like xenoestrogens, which can cause breast cancer in the woman who uses such a product and through transfer can cause prostate cancer in a man.

c)    If you insist on using chemicals on your skin, you may want to consider seeing a naturopathic physician who does intravenous chelation. Lab tests are available to assess the levels of heavy metals and toxins in your body. If the levels are creeping up, chelation treatments from time to time may be needed in people with measured elevations of lead levels in blood tests and/or urinary lead level elevations.  Discuss this with your doctor.  Removal of any accumulated mercury, lead, and cadmium or other heavy metals will be an option. I have summarized detoxification methods elsewhere.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I think that it has to be carefully considered, how much use of lipstick application is necessary. Next the choice of a high quality product is of utmost importance. Taking all the factors together, its constant use cannot be recommended, especially since there is not only lead present, which is a known health hazard. Beside lead there are many other chemicals that get absorbed and their effects have not been adequately tested by the agencies.

More information on vitamins and detoxification: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/vitamins-minerals-supplements/

References:

1. Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. Chapter 73, “Lead” by Michael W. Shannon, MD, MPH © 2007, Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Dec
14
2013

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

In early 1900 lung cancer was unheard of. This was before the cigarette industry started to mass-produce and market cigarettes.

However, ever since the arrival of the industrial revolution air quality has suffered. In China poor air quality has now reached such enormous values that the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has labeled poor air quality as one of the causes of lung cancer.

When you rank countries by average air pollution measurements, one sees that Europe, the US and South America overall have good ratings, whereas the Middle Eastern countries, China and India have poorer ratings.

However, when the pollution index of cities where the population is much denser than in the countries at large, are tabulated a much different picture emerges: Cities in Iran, India and Pakistan stand out as particularly bad followed by cities in China, Eastern Europe, Paris, London, Berlin, cities in California (the populous State), Chicago and New York.

Pollution does not stay local, but travels through the stratosphere around the globe. The result is that now 10 to 15% of lung cancer in the US occurs in patients who never smoked. This translates into 16,000 to 24,000 deaths annually of never-smokers in the US.

In certain cities such as Beijing the lung cancer rates have doubled in 9 years between 2002 and 2011. As this article shows lung cancer in never smokers can be caused from exposure to radon, to second-hand tobacco smoke, and other indoor air pollutants can also cause such cancers. But the outdoor air quality has been a problem ever since the industrial revolution, which started around Europe in the 1800’s and first part of the1900’s. In the latter half of the 1900’s much of the industrial wave has migrated to the Middle East, to India and China. But the air quality of the whole world has suffered as the jet stream and other air currents carry pollution in the stratosphere all around the globe.

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

History of pollution in various regions

1. In Germany’s  Ruhr district (“Ruhrgebiet”) in North Rhine-Westphalia, a highly populated industrial area, pollution reached a peak in the late 1950’s. From 1963 onward many of the coal mines, iron ore mines and other mineral mines closed down. 50 years ago the German Chancellor, Willy Brand was concerned about the environment and promised that blue skies would return to the Ruhr district again.  A special task force was initiated and maximally allowable limits were established for industries’ pollution emissions and enforced by the German government. Government and industry were co-operating in developing anti-pollution measures, which have cleared up a lot of the pollution since. With regard to car emissions lead free gasoline was introduced and carburetors ensured more complete burning of exhaust gases. This is now common and accepted anywhere except for diesel fume exhaust, which nobody wants to address despite proven carcinogenicity.

Now Germany is one of the leaders in green technology, which is also important for tourism.

2. England has its own legacy of pollution in soil and air from the industrial revolution. The soil of moorland, which soaked up acid rain for decades, is more acidy than lemon juice and it will take a long time despite industrial complexes having closed long time ago, before the soil quality will be returned to normal.

3. Hamilton in Ontario/Canada has had a longstanding pollution problem, which I witnessed from 1976 until my departure in 1978. It is well known that Stelco, the local steel plant downtown Hamilton is sending polluting emissions into the air. In 1976 a vising professor from Australia gave an interesting talk about a study that was done at that time regarding the risk of developing bronchogenic carcinoma (a synonym for lung cancer) in the immediate surroundings of the Stelco plant. He said that this was one of the first studies to show that the distance of people’s houses from the source of pollution mattered as that determined how concentrated the air pollution was (the closer the more polluted the air). This  affected cancer rates: they were much higher in the immediate surrounding of Stelco when compared to the average rate in the rest of Hamilton. This difference was very significant within a radius of 1 kilometer (= 0.62 miles) from the Stelco plant.

Just in May of 2013 the local cancer agency of Hamilton announced that the lung cancer rate in Hamilton was higher than elsewhere in Ontario because of a combination of poor air quality and of a higher percentage of people smoking. Then in August 2013 the city of Hamilton announced a new air pollution bylaw for stricter pollution measures to improve the air quality in the downtown area. It is just a pity that Hamiltonians had to wait until 2013 before the city approved an anti-pollution bylaw that could have been passed 50 years earlier like in Germany’s Ruhr district!

4. In 2008 Pittsburg, a former steel manufacturer town like Hamilton, Ont. outdid Los Angeles with regard to small particle air pollution.

Lung cancer prevention by the authorities

As mentioned before up o15% of lung cancer is caused by environmental exposure. So, we ourselves can only prevent 85% of lung cancer by not smoking and not exposing ourselves to industrial emissions or to smoke from incense. However, in many cities around the world you will get exposed to air pollutants that are well above the safe limits, so the risk of getting lung cancer from just breathing the air there can be much higher than in rural areas where there is no industry.

Technologies to control air pollution are widely available. We need to exert pressure on politicians to show leadership around the world. Government regulations to lower emission rates need to be put into place and inspectors need to ensure the rules and regulations are adhered to. Without reducing emissions of cancer producing gases and chemicals right at the source (open burning of cuttings in orchards or burning cut trees), cutting emissions of cars, planes, ships, diesel cars, locomotives, electric generator plants etc. the air quality will not improve. Despite some costs involved industry, governments and individuals have to work together to make clean air happen.

The residents of those countries that have low pollution values will not benefit, if pollution continues to occur in other parts of the world as it just travels in the stratosphere around the globe until it arrives right here at home! We need an international pollution police. Satellites can be used to monitor where pollution occurs and this can be followed up through the local regulatory bodies with penalties and remedial actions.

What can I do personally to prevent lung cancer?

1.The most obvious step is to quit smoking and ask smokers who come to your place to smoke outside (not in your home).

2.Consider moving away from the city, if the air quality is unacceptable to a place where there is low air pollution.

3.Vitamin D3 has been shown to prevent colorectal cancer, but as there are vitamin D receptors found on the surface of various cells in tissue around the body including the lungs, many researchers feel that this vitamin in higher doses (2000 IU to 5000 IU) has probably a wider applicability in preventing cancers, even lung cancer.

4.Cutting out sugar and adopting a Mediterranean type diet is a prudent thing to do; also cutting down your calories to the maintenance you need (mildly ketogenic diet). If you bought body composition scales, it would display what your daily calorie consumption is and you should not exceed this, or else you’ll gain weight. An aging man who is overweight will experience hormone changes as fat is being metabolized and the enzyme aromatase contained in fatty tissue will turn male hormones (testosterone, DHT, androstenedione) into estrogen. Estrogen (particularly estradiol) is a known carcinogen that has been proven to cause breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. However lung cancer is also being promoted in women by estrogen as discussed in this link. In men one needs to remember that lung cells have estrogen receptors and there is concern in aging men with higher estradiol levels that this can promote cell divisions in existing lung cancer. So, it is important to maintain a normal body mass index between 21 and 24 (well below 25.0 and well above 18.5, which are the official accepted limits). This way there is no problem with insulin resistance (too high an insulin level), and other metabolic substances (cytokines, growth hormone like factors and tumor necrosis factor-alpha from body fat) that are cancer promoting.

5. If testosterone deficiency is present, which is common in older men, testosterone will have to be replaced with bioidentical hormones. It is a myth that testosterone would cause prostate cancer. Testosterone in males is necessary to maintain a normal metabolism including the immune system, which then can fight lung cancer and any other cancers.

6. Exercise and reducing beef consumption are also often mentioned in terms of preventing lung cancer.

7. Here are several recommendations from the LifeExtension Foundation that I found very useful in terms of lung cancer prevention. This link shows that antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, alpha tocopherol, the minerals selenium and zinc are also helping to reduce the lung cancer rate. Drinking green tea has also been shown to be effective in a dose-response curve manner (more tea protecting more from lung cancer). Vitamin B12 and folate have been shown to reduce abnormal bronchial cell growth in smokers as shown by repeat bronchoscopy studies.

8. Those who have been smokers in the past and those who have been around heavy smokers for more than 10 years in the past should consider having a preventative bronchoscopy done by a lung specialist (also called respirologist or pulmonologists). This way any suspicious areas with precancerous lesions can be biopsied during the procedure and attended to.

Hopeful research for new lung cancer treatments

Lung cancer is a disease that is best prevented. Once a person gets lung cancer, the prognosis is still very poor. However, cancer researchers are getting close to newer treatments involving genetically modified T-cells (killer cells) as was recently achieved for leukemia. Similar research is going on regarding ovarian cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

More information about lung cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/lung-cancer/

Conclusion

It is not acceptable to let pollution take its course , the way politicians around the globe have handled this in the past 6 decades with a few notable exceptions mentioned. We all suffer a higher risk of getting lung cancer, even if we have been life-long non-smokers. Right now up to 15% of lung cancer in most populations are of this type. However, in Beijing this number is already much higher. The technology is available; Germany has led the way in the Ruhr district in the 1960’s and beyond. In my opinion the G8 meetings should have this high on their agendas and send technological aid to all the regions that have higher than the average world pollution index under the mandate of a special UN commission. This should be supported by the major industrial players with the knowledge that they will prevent the death of millions of potential consumers down the road, which will on the long-term pay off the relatively minor investment of installing pollution controls, before lung cancer levels rise even more.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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