|Life Extension Update Exclusive |
Prevailing menopause dogma questioned
The March 11, 2004 issue of Nature published the findings of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital that female mice produce new egg cells well into adulthood. The discovery contradicts the long-held belief that female mammals are born with a limited supply of eggs that are released from their follicles at a steady rate until the supply is depleted and menopause ensues.
In earlier research by the team, it was revealed that apoptosis--programmed cell death that eliminates damaged cells--is the mechanism by which egg cells are destroyed in women who have received chemotherapy or radiation, leading to premature ovarian failure. In mice and humans, the majority of egg cells die through this process.
In the current research the team counted the numbers of healthy and dying egg follicles in mouse ovaries. They found a low level of dying follicles in young mice, with a dramatic increase to approximately 1200 dying follicles per ovary observed as the animals approached adulthood, which continuined into maturity. Dying follicles were found to be cleared from the ovaries within three days of their death, confirming that the researchers were not recounting old follicles. Despite this high rate of loss, the mice were found to retain healthy egg cells past the age of one year.
Examination of the outer surface of the animals’ ovaries found germ cells which are the source of egg cells that develop in the fetus. By finding a protein that is only produced during the formation of egg cells from germ cells, the researchers discovered that this aspect of egg cell development was continuing after the birth of the animal. These cells had the characteristics of germline stem cells, and other tests conducted by the researchers added to this hypothesis. In an accompanying editorial, Allan C Spardling of the Carnegie Institution wrote that this research raises the possibility that the reproductive decline observed in women in their thirties is caused by the depletion of germline stem cells combined with age-dependent follicular defects occurring when egg cells mature.
Lead author Jonathan Tilly, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, commented, "Finding such a high level of follicle degeneration without a corresponding reduction in the number of healthy follicles brought us up against the dogma of a fixed supply of oocytes. The only probable interpretation was that the postnatal ovary had to be retaining the ability to make new oocytes and follicles. If these findings hold up in humans, all theories about the aging of the female reproductive system will have to be revisited. We also may need to revisit the mechanisms underlying such environmental effects on fertility as smoking, chemotherapy and radiation. Eventually this could lead to totally new approaches to combating infertility in cancer patients and others."
Female Hormone Replacement Therapy
Every hormone discussed in this protocol is influenced by both environmental and nutritional factors.
The following are some of the most important factors:
Stress: There are strong correlations between excessive stress and problems such as adrenal insufficiency, lack of menstrual cycle, PMS, vaginitis, urinary incontinence, bone loss, and infertility.
Smoking: The link between cancer and smoking is well documented. Less well known is connection of smoking with bone loss, cervical dysplasia, and miscarriage.
Exercise: The obvious connection of exercise is to osteoporosis, but lack of regular exercise plays a role in adrenal disease, cardiopulmonary disorders, loss of libido, and menstrual problems, as well as leading to insulin resistance and consequent diabetes and/or weight gain, which results in more estrogen dominance.
Obesity: Some menstrual disorders are more often found in overweight women. In fact, a diet that lowers body fat may lower estrogen levels as well.
Nutrition: The following are some areas in which dietary supplements play an important role in the development and treatment of hormonally related diseases:
- Vitamin E: Research at Johns Hopkins Medical School demonstrated that 600 IU/ day of vitamin E raised both estriol and progesterone levels in a group of women with fibroid breast disease. Both estriol and progesterone help to protect against estrogen's possible tumor-creating effects (London et al. 1981).
- Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3: Women should supplement their diet with at least 1000-1500 mg of elemental calcium in the form of calcium citrate or calcium bisglycinate to ensure the best absorption, 400 mg of elemental magnesium, and 400 IU of vitamin D3 daily. A product such as Bone Assure contains the necessary amounts of these nutrients. For more information on this topic, please refer to the Osteoporosis protocol in this book.
- Antioxidants: The addition of such antioxidants as vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10, grape seed-skin extract (proanthocyanidins), and alpha-lipoic acid may be of great assistance when preventing a number of the disorders in this protocol, including cardiac problems and cancers.
- Fats: Diets high in saturated fats lead to heart disease, cancers, and an imbalance in the eicosanoid hormones (an important factor in fibroid cysts). In contrast, diets high in essential fatty acids help to balance eicosanoids. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are unsaturated fats from cold water fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring) and perilla and flaxseed oil. Evening primrose and borage oil provide gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an important anti-inflammatory fatty acid. A good portion of your diet should come from soybeans. Other links to eicosanoid imbalance include uterine cramps, pelvic pain, and breast pain. Supplements are available that provide both the essential fatty acids from fish oil (DHA-EPA) and GLA.
- High-potency B-complex vitamins: Various B vitamins have been examined by researchers. Abraham (1983) found vitamin B6 to be helpful in reducing menstrual cramps. Mills et al. (1999) showed that in women with endometriosis, supplementing the B-complex group produced a significant decrease in symptoms.
- Bioflavonoids: Supplements of this member of the vitamin C complex appear to actually inhibit excessive estrogen synthesis (Kellis et al. 1984).
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DHEA 15 mg capsules
In 1981, the Life Extension Foundation introduced DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) to its members through an article that described the multiple benefits that this hormone might produce. However, the general public did not learn about DHEA until 1996, when the benefits of DHEA were touted by the news media and in several popular books.
DHEA became credible to the medical establishment when the New York Academy of Sciences published a book entitled DHEA and Aging. This book provided scientific validation for the many life extension effects of DHEA.
It has been shown that the hormone DHEA often declines 80-90% by age 70 or later, leading to hormonal imbalances that can affect one’s quality of life. Peak blood levels of DHEA occur at approximately age 25, decreasing progressively thereafter. Thus, scientists have been looking at ways of restoring DHEA to youthful levels, and are now discovering mechanisms by which this hormone protects against age-related decline.
During and after menopause, natural progesterone synthesis often grinds to a halt, setting the stage for a host of menopausal miseries and degenerative diseases.
In the past, progesterone was given only to women who had an intact uterus (to prevent unopposed estrogen-induced uterine cancer in women who were taking Premarin or other forms of estradiol). Research by Dr. Ray Peat, Dr. John Lee and others has shown that progesterone has many other beneficial uses, including an improvement in bone density to prevent osteoporosis and to offset other menopausal symptoms.