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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Seniors' Health Channel
Reported May 7, 2010

Age Wave: Shot of Vigor or Quackery? -- Research Summary

HORMONE THERAPY FOR AGING: Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is a hormone produced during pregnancy that is made by cells that form the placenta. The hormone can be extracted and given to men to boost testosterone levels. In 2009, Dodgers star Manny Ramirez was suspended in part for obtaining a prescription for HCG, a substance banned in major league baseball. Some companies claim that HCG can counteract the body's decreased production of testosterone after age 30, thus reducing the risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, sexual dysfunction and osteoporosis.

"It is my general advice about hormones in general, to go to a specialist, an endocrinologist, and find out if you have a problem that needs addressing, but these other anti-aging doctors -- or even just non-doctors who are advertising hormones -- I think that they are advertising a toxic soup for you, and it’s really something to avoid at all costs," aging expert Tom Perls, Ph.D., director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center, told Ivanhoe.

The Endocrine Society advises against testosterone therapy besides when it's administered to counteract a specific condition like delayed puberty or AIDS wasting. Their guidelines “recommend against … offering testosterone to all older men with low testosterone.”

Other experts caution that hormone supplementation as a whole is dangerous territory.

"There was a time when we thought we should supplement everybody with growth hormone, until we discovered that it caused a variety of problems from pain in the feet to changes in the composition of the body that were actually detrimental rather than helpful, so I think that we should look at hormones as important to restore to the level that they should be at, at a given age, but not to use excessively," Lewis Lipsitz, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, Mass., told Ivanhoe.

"Our approach should be evidence-based, and I would caution people about jumping on the newest bandwagon before an intervention is properly tested," Dr. Lipsitz added.

Dr. Thomas Perls

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