Disease Proof

The Myth of Anti-Aging Hormones: Doctors Repeating Mistakes

From the July 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Hormone-replacement therapy is one of the few areas of medicine where research on men lags behind that on women. Doctors prescribed estrogen for women for twenty years, until about three years ago when comprehensive data was compiled that showed it increased the risk of heart attacks, strokes, embolisms, and breast cancer. Today, women are being weaned off their estrogen. Unfortunately, now men are being put on testosterone. Doctors are doing to men what they did to women for so long—prescribing treatment without sufficient data to reach a firm conclusion on all of the potential benefits and risks.

Indicating a startling trend, a recent study on testosterone by the Institute of Medicine found that prescriptions written for “treatment” of middle-aged and older men whose hormone levels were near normal were rising rapidly. More than 1.75 million prescriptions for testosterone products were written in 2002, a 170 percent increase in three years.

Many studies have shown that higher testosterone levels, promoted by a diet rich in animal products, are strongly linked with both breast and prostate cancer. This link is stronger than the link between estrogen and its related health problems. For older men, studies indicate that higher levels of testosterone fuel the growth of prostate tumors, which is why chemical castration is one means of treating the disease in the advanced stages. The problem is that prostate cancer begins many years before it can be detected by blood tests or examination. So, taking testosterone can change an indolent (hidden and slow-growing) cancer into a more aggressive one.

Aging does not guarantee that a particular man’s testosterone will decline to a level that affects how he feels. Men who maintain the body weight they had in their twenties and eat healthfully may have very little falloff. When a person eats a healthful plant-centered diet, their hormonal levels (this is true of both testosterone and estrogen) will be lower, not higher, throughout life. Then, as they get older, the percentage of decline will be less dramatic. Additionally, since the body is accustomed to lower than average levels for all those years, the hormonal receptors are increased in number, so the effects of the age-related decline in hormones are hardly noticed.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved testosterone therapy for men who suffer from hypogonadism, a condition in which the body makes very little testosterone, it has not passed it for other uses. Their concern is that, unless there is a profound testosterone deficiency, the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages. Yet this is not the way testosterone is being prescribed today. Doctors are prescribing testosterone for men who are experiencing a normal age-related decline in testosterone in an attempt to enhance their virility and strength. It is rarely successful.

Testosterone replacement may be warranted in the very small subset of men with markedly decreased testosterone levels and symptoms or signs suggesting hypogonadism, and these individuals may experience an increase in the quality of their lives. But even they must be informed that the long-term safety of testosterone supplementation remains uncertain.

Here’s more on this topic:
Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (0) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Dr. Fuhrman's Executive Offices
4 Walter E. Foran Blvd.
Suite 408
Flemington, NJ 08822