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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine January 1997

THE SUPER-HORMONE PROMISE

by William Regelson, M.D. And Carol Colman

This new work by the authors of the best-selling book The Melatonin Miracle is the latest entry in a series of books about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)-the hottest new area of anti-aging medicine. Although HRT started decades ago when gynecologists began replacing estrogen in menopausal women, it came of age in 1990 when Daniel Rudman of the Medical College of Wisconsin showed that supplemental growth hormone improved strength, muscle mass, skin and skin thickness in elderly men.

image The Rudman study spurred dozens of clinical studies into the anti-aging benefits of supplemental hormones that decline with age, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, and growth hormone. Dr. Regelson's new book is the first look at the total spectrum of HRT research and clinical practice. It includes recommendations for the types and doses of hormones for HRT and a list of sources where these hormones can be obtained.

Dr. Regelson's book includes many new, unpublished findings about HRT, coming from his conversations with other scientists about their research, and Dr. Regelson's own research and clinical findings. The book is especially strong on the benefits of DHEA, which it focuses on to a greater extent than any of the other hormones. Regelson has conducted DHEA research for more than 20 years and is very knowledgeable about this super hormone.

The Foundation recommends this book as a general review of HRT and as an in-depth exploration of the multiple anti-aging benefits of DHEA. The weakest chapter in the book is on growth hormone, but this subject will be covered in depth at a 5 1/2 hour session at the upcoming A4M Anti-Aging Medicine conference in Las Vegas (see Life Extension Events), and by several new books on growth hormone therapy, which are scheduled to be published next year.

A Revolution In Medicine

One of the purposes of The Super Hormone Promise is to describe how replacing deficient hormones will change the way in which physicians practice medicine. Dr. Regelson gives the following example of the potential of HRT:
"If a doctor today were to discover that one of his young patients had an elevated level of blood sugar, a condition that can cause diabetes and lead to heart disease, he would undoubtedly precribe immediate treatment. At the very least, the young patient would probably be placed on a diet, given medication, and instructed to exercise regularly.

"In contrast, if a 60- or 70-year-old patient had exactly the same blood sugar levels, his physician would more than likely shrug it off as nothing more than a sign of age, and the older patient would be sent home empty-handed.

"Frankly, I think that this attitude is archaic, as archaic as a physician not prescribing an antibiotic to treat a serious infection, or using anesthesia to emiminate the pain of surgery. It should not matter how old a patient is; if high blood sugar levesl are unhealthy for a 20-year-old, they are certainly more dangerous for an older person who is at even greater risk of developing serious diseases that can be caused by this condition.

"Thanks to the superhormone revolution, it will be simply unacceptable for a doctor to assume that once a patient has reached a certain chronologic age, it is somehow acceptable for that patient's body systems to go out of whack, and to assume that what is abnormal in younger patients is somehow 'normal' in older patients. Because we can now prevent the disease and the disabillity associated with aging, it will be unthinkable for a physician to tell a patient that he or she needs to accept the ravages of degenerative diseases as 'normal'.

"Our new vision of life in our upper decades will feature healthy, strong, active men and women who are still in their prime. Patients will demand that their doctors use the tools that are now available to rewind the aging clock and restore the body back to its youthful peak."

The Anti-Stress Hormone

There is a growing body of evidence that one of the prime mechanisms of DHEA's action is as anti-stress hormone. Dr. Regelson gives an in-depth analysis about the ability of DHEA to tame the hormones that rage when bodies are under stress. He points out that when people are under stress, their adrenal glands produce large amounts of corticosteroids.

Corticosterioids raise blood sugar levels and increase heart rate to help the body a burst of energy to cope with a physical challenge. Under ideal conditions, this surge of corticosteroids would be used up very quickly during a burst of physical activity. However, in many cases stress becomes chronic, which causes stress hormones to linger in the bloodstream.

Extreme stress, which often accompanies (or can induce) depression, decreases immune function and leaves people vulnerable to viral diseases, hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

Rescuing The Immune System From Stress Hormones

Studies by Raymond Daynes of the University Of Utah Medical Center, and others, have demonstrated that DHEA can rejuvenate the immune system in mice.

A recent study highlights the ability of DHEA to reverse the effects of stress on the human immune system into the spotlight. This study, which was conducted by Dr. Omid Khorram of the University of Wisconsin, is described as follows in Dr. Regelson's book:
"In Dr. Khorram's study, nine healthy older men took DHEA for five months. Dr. Khorram found that DHEA did indeed have a palpable, measurable rejuvenating effect on their aging immune systems. He found that DHEA elevated men's levels of IGF-1. This is the hormone through which growth hormone, operates. "DHEA also normalized the mens' levels of cytokine IL-6, the cytokine linked to autoimmune disorders. It increased levels of IL-2, the cytokine responsible for gearing up the immune system to fight unwanted invaders. And it stimulated the production of B cells, which produce the antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria, as well as the production of macrophages, the white blood cells that fight infection by 'chewing up' infecting organisms. It increased the number and activity of cancer- fighting NK (natural killer) cells, which keep a watchful eye on potential cancerous cells and destroy them before they can grow."

DHEA For Cancer

The Super Hormone Promise explains and provides evidence for the anti-cancer benefits of DHEA. Dr. Regelson reports on DHEA's anti-tumor effects in animals, and discusses clinical research with DHEA in cancer patients. In relating his own use of DHEA in terminal cancer patients given up as "hopeless" by other doctors, he provides evidence for the safety of DHEA in humans.

"Over the course of 2 1/2 years, I gave 19 patients extremely high doses of DHEA-up to 40 mg per kilogram (kg) of weight daily in divided doses. Considering that the average patient weighs between 70 and 80 kg, this was an astonishingly high dose, between 2,800 and 3,200 mg daily.

"In nearly all cases, the DHEA was well tolerated, which to me further attested to the safety of this superhormone. Nearly all the patients said they felt better and reported a reduction in fatigue. What was particularly interesting was that the patients with the poorest prognosis-two patients with advanced renal cancer, a particularly lethal malignancy-seemed to fare the best. Although these terminal patients had limited life expectancy, DHEA arrested the growth of their cancers. One survived for another 2 1/2 years without regression of the tumor, but also without its further growth.

"The true leavening grace in this is that my patients were in stable condition and out of pain for most of their 'borrowed time'. Thus, although DHEA may not have 'cured' the cancer, it improved the overall physical condition of these patients and greatly ehanced the quality of life they had left."

Pregnenolone Improves Memory In Humans

Another example of research results reported for the first time in The Super Hormone Promise is evidence that pregnenolone can improve memory in humans. Pregnenolone has been widely touted as the "memory hormone" largely because of studies in animals showing improvements in learning and memory in mice and rats after they received supplemental pregnenolone.

Regelson reveals that more than 50 years ago, researchers at the University of Massachusetts demonstrated that pregnenolone can improve memory in humans. They trained 14 subjects to operate an airplane flight simulator machine. The objective was to fly the plane safely, avoiding obstances and crashes. Seven of the subjects were professional airplane pilots; the other seven had no previous piloting experience.

Before each test run, the subjects took a 50 mg capsule of pregnenolone or a placebo. Tests conducted over a several week period showed that those who received pregnenolone improved signficantly in their ability to operate the airplane simulator compared to those receiving placebo. Moreover, their flying ability improved more the longer they took pregnenolone. The pilots in the study reported that they performed better, with less fatigue, during their real flying jobs, as well as during the simulated flights.

Improvement On The Job

The same researchers tested pregnenolone supplementation in factory workers to see if it could improve their productivity on the job, reports Dr. Regelson. They found that productivity was significantly improved in workers taking pregnenolone. Interestingly, the effect on productivity was most noticeable in those who worked under highly stressful conditions, such as those who were paid by the piece and were thus under pressure to produce in order to earn a living. Pregnenolone not only improved productivity, but the workers also said they felt better and were better able to cope with job pressures when taking pregnenolone.

Improving Memory In Older People

Now, more than 50 years later, scientists at the St. Louis University School of Medicine are again conducting studies to determine the effects of pregnenolone on mental function in humans. Although the results of these studies are still preliminary, Dr. Rahmawhati Sih shared her data with Regelson prior to the publication of his book.

In one of her studies, Dr. Sih administered a 500 mg capsule of prenenolone or a placebo to a small number of elderly men and women. Three hours later, the subjects were asked to perform a variety of standard memory tests, including paragraph recall, block design, and concentration.

Those who took pregnenolone showed improvement on these memory tests, but the results varied by sex. Men tended to improve more on spatial tasks such as block building, trail making (connecting lines), and other tasks requiring three dimensional thinking. Women, on the other hand, tended to improve most on verbal tasks, such as recalling a series of words.

The Power Of Testosterone

Dr. Regelson does a good job responding on the exciting new findings regarding testosterone replacement therapy. Until recently, the value of testosterone therapy for aging men was not widely known and the value of testosterone for aging women was virtually unknown. Regelson documents the ability of testosterone to build muscle mass, reduce fat and boost sex drive in men, and help sex drives in women.

In seeking to define the role of testosterone in hormone replacement therapy, Regelson quotes Dr. Norman Orentreich. An eminent 73-year-old dermatologist and age researcher. Orentreich was among the first to measure the decline in DHEA levels with advancing age.

Orentreich has been using a topical form of testosterone, which his pharmacist compounds for him, for the past 15 years, since he was 58. At 73, Orentreich remains highly active in research, clinical medicine, and social and recreational activities. According to Regelson, Orentreich has remarkably smooth skin, a head of thick hair, and a trim youthful body.

Regelson quotes Orentreich:
"'I can assure you that if I was not on testosterone, I would not be what I am today. I was a great athlete as a kid, but now most of the day I'm forced to be sedentary. I take testosterone to maintain my muscle strength, which is something I could not do at my age with exercise alone. My energy level is up, my musculature is up, and my fat isdown because of testosterone. I feel the same way sexually as I did in my forties. Maybe I should accept the fact that at age 73 things change and I should just let it happen, but I don't want to and with testosterone I don't have to.'"

Regelson considers Orentreich the model of a man in the forefront of the superhormone revolution. To his mind, the revolution will be defined in the minds of those of us who refuse to accept physical and mental decline as an inevitable part of the aging process.

How To Obtain The Super Hormone Promise

The Super Hormone Promise by Dr. William Regelson and Carol Coleman is a 349-page book published by Simon & Schuster. It is available by mail from The Life Extension Foundation