Many people do not realize the fact the the origin of the sex hormones, both male and female, is CHOLESTEROL. And your cholesterol levels need to be above 150 in order to produce adequate amounts of these sex hormones. Cholesterol is transformed into PREGNENOLONE, the mother of all hormones. From pregnenolone, several chemical transformations produce DHEA, Testosterone and DHT or dihydrotestosterone. And did you know that from testosterone, a chemical reaction can produce estrogen? This reaction accounts for the fact of “androgynous de-differentiation of the sexes” after the age of 60 or so. Men produce much less testosterone and women much less estrogen and they begin to look alike…a bit!
DHEA, the first hormone produced through pregnenolone is anabolic, or a building hormone. It is a pro-hormone for sex steroids, immune supporting and anti-plaque forming. It enhances insulin sensitivity and has an anti-obesity effect. DHEA maintains tissue strength and repair, supports bone density, enhances memory and promotes a sense of well being. The levels of this hormone begin to decline in the late twenties and at 60, most men have only 20% of the levels they enjoyed when they were in their twenties.
DHEA through an intermediary reaction forms Testosterone some of which undergoes reduction by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase to DHT or dihydrotestosterone. The blood concentration of DHT is 10% that of Testosterone but at least twice as potent. It is responsible for development of male sex characteristics and is a primary contributing factor in androgenetic alopecia, or male-patterned baldness, benign prostatic hypertrophy and hirsutism in women. because of these associated diseases,a class of drugs known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors have become popular. Finasteride or Propecia, Dutasteride or Avodart, Zinc, Progesterone, Saw Palmetto and L-Lysine inhibit the reaction that turns Testosterone into DHT.
And this brings us to TESTOSTERONE. Testosterone is the “life force” hormone, the primary source of libido and is associated with aggression. It is produced mainly in the testes in men, secondarily in the adrenal glands. In women it is produced in both the adrenals and the ovaries. Low levels in both sexes are associated with reduced bone density, libido and lean muscle mass. Low testosterone can result from diabetes, liver disease, obesity, smoking and chronic alcohol abuse among other things. In an aging male, a decrease in bioavailable testosterone produces symptoms know collectively as ANDROPAUSE. The symptoms are less sudden in onset than female menopause and may carry serious long term consequences. Andropause symptoms include loss of drive and competitive edge, decreased levels of fitness and effectiveness of workouts, joint pain and muscle stiffness, increased brain aging (decreased memory) and increased heart and circulation aging. These is seen with increased numbers of myocardial infarctions and stroke. The number one organ in the body for testosterone receptor is actually the heart! With the onset of andropause, body composition analysis shows decreased lean muscle mass, increased body fat, osteoporosis and anemia. There is also fatigue, depression and mood changes and irritability. The sexual ramifications of low testosterone include reduced libido and fantasies, reduced morning erections, longer recovery time between orgasms, reduced erectile tension and decreased intensity of orgasms.
In the next blog, we continue our discussion of Andropause and all of its ramifications and contributing factors.