After spending 30 years, so far, of studying the aging process from every possible angle, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that aging is not some mysterious, inscrutable, unsolvable problem. Rather, it is quite apparent that aging is controlled, like many other things in our lives, by changes in hormones. Do bear with me and let me give you a little background on aging first, then you will get VERY USEFUL information about the hormone changes that cause it – complete with graphs and charts!
The Background and the Controversy:
The conventional view of aging, which is currently in a state of major change, has been that aging was just an accidental artifact of us and other animals living too long, because we had never lived this long in the past. Since life was nasty brutish and short, we never evolved mechanisms to keep our bodies alive at ages that they never reached in “the wild”. In fact a common quip by aging theorists of the recent past was “animals don’t age in the wild”, said with much confidence and authority. This has proven to be completely untrue.
Truly this was a very simplistic and wrong-headed view as we shall soon see.
The new thinking that is emerging amongst the younger students of aging and evolution is that aging evolved for a purpose and thus is controlled like many other facets of human life by changes in hormones. If you search the Pub Med Science database for the terms aging and evolution, there almost hasn’t been a paper published in years that did not question the prevailing paradigm of the past and suggest that aging was actually programmed. And what drives our lifetime programs more than anything else? You got it – HORMONES!
There can be no denying that female menopause is driven by dramatic changes in hormone levels. It is so obvious because it happens so quickly relative to the total human life span.
What was not so obvious until recently is how other hormones vary over the typical human lifetime to drive the aging process. Except for menopause, the changes caused by aging-related hormones occur gradually in humans. A classic example of rapid hormone-driven aging can be seen in the case of the Pacific Salmon who live for 3 years and then return to their spawning grounds to reproduce. And in the 3 days after spawning they deteriorate rapidly and die! Poof! Just like that. And if you castrate them, they can live for 7 years!
The old theory, when confronted with the obviously rapid programmed aging of the Pacific Salmon, simply created a new category of aging called semelparous aging (aging during a one time burst of reproduction) – and with the wave of a hand said it had nothing to do with other types of aging! Out of sight out of mind!
For humans, it turns out there are hormones that are good for you and prevent aging. And there are also hormones that are bad for you and promote aging. (The aging-promoting hormones that when increased initially drive the development program and cause the initiation of puberty, are elevated even more at older ages and drive the aging program – it is all one seamless mechanism).
Okay now the stuff you have been waiting for!
Let’s start with the hormones that are good for you first: Melatonin, Pregnenolone, DHEA, and Progesterone.
The master hormone that controls your other reproductive hormones and suppresses the “bad“ hormones. It peaks at night and drops dramatically in the daytime. It is like your hormonal clock. The problem is that when we age the nighttime peaks in melatonin get smaller and smaller. This is the trigger that causes all sorts of other pro-aging hormonal changes to occur.
I know from personal experience and blood testing that when I take large doses of melatonin it boosts my progesterone levels up quite high, to about 30% higher than the upper limit of the normal reference range for men of my age. I suspect that high melatonin peaks also promote higher levels of DHEA and pregnenolone as well. Progesterone, pregnenolone, and DHEA are all “good hormones” that decline with age.
In a study involving mice and rats, the melatonin levels of these animals shoot way up, way higher than their youthful nighttime peaks when they are semi starved. And what else happens? The mice live up to 40% longer than normally fed mice. Is there a link? I am sure there is. Another hormone that also increases quite a bit during caloric restriction is DHEA. Let’s look at DHEA next.
Caloric Restriction in Mice
DHEA is a steroid hormone very similar in structure to estrogen and testosterone. There are quite a few books about DHEA as being a wonder anti-aging hormone that prevents cancer and is a potent antioxidant. What happens to your DHEA levels when you age?
Need I say more?
This hormone is known as the super-memory hormone. Giving pregnenolone to old rats boosts their memory to the same level as that of young rats. It is also a steroid hormone. “Steroid” just means it is a hormone that is initially created from cholesterol. So what happens to your pregnenolone levels when you age?
Need I say more?
The first step for all steroid hormone synthesis occurs when the body makes pregnenolone from cholesterol. Step two is when our bodies use some of that pregnenolone to make progesterone. All other downstream steroids like testosterone and estrogen originally start off as progesterone.
All steroids have a very similar chemical structure:
But don’t let that fool you! They may all look the same like magnetic hotel room keys do. But due to their differing electrical signatures they bind to specific hormone receptors and this explains their dramatically different effects while appearing so similar.
Progesterone is known to be one of the most neuroprotective substances known to man, and is known to be the reason why women recover from brain injuries much more easily than men – due to higher female progesterone levels. At menopause, women’s progesterone levels crash to almost 0, while it takes a bit longer for men’s progesterone levels to crash which happen in their 60’s and 70’s.
Two interesting points to make about progesterone are that one, the negative symptoms of menopause like night sweats, weight gain, and mood changes, are now believed to be caused by the unopposed estrogen which declines at a slower rate than progesterone does in the menopause. Some doctors are now giving their menopausal patients 300 mg of progesterone per day to eliminate these symptoms. Secondly, while researching the cause of ALS for a reader, I noticed that men get the dreaded ALS at a 4 to 1 ratio as compared to women. However, after menopause the ratio becomes 1 to 1. This told me that progesterone might be protective against ALS and indeed a later mouse study by Korean researchers found that progesterone dramatically prolonged the lives of male mice in a mouse model of ALS. Remember – progesterone is the most neuroprotective substance on earth!
The Anti-Aging Solution
It is simple, if you want to slow and even reverse the aging process, you need to supplement with DHEA, pregnenolone, and melatonin, and maybe progesterone. Because increasing your melatonin levels leads to increase in progesterone so you might not need extra progesterone.
All these hormones are available over the counter without a prescription in the US – which is an unusual situation compared to the rest of the world where many hormones are available by prescription only.
If you want to supplement with smaller amounts of progesterone you can also get progesterone cream (which absorbs through your skin) without a prescription in the US as well. High-dose progesterone – brand name Prometrium – is available by prescription only and is dramatically overpriced!
What dosages should you take? That is a good question.
For DHEA, it’s 100 mg for men and maybe 25 to 50 mg a day for women
For melatonin, if you really want the anti-aging effects you will likely want to try higher doses than are considered normal. Like 75 mg a night for women and 120 mg a night for men. Just be prepared for the 4-month adjustment period of lots of sleeping!
For pregnenolone, 100 mg a day is likely fine. I take 200 mg a day and there have been no adverse effects from even 400 mg a day.
I do not take progesterone. My melatonin intake seems to boost it. Melatonin also boosts progesterone levels in females. It is up to you to decide whether to supplement.
So now let’s take a look at the two major hormones that increase dramatically after age 50 in both men and women that are bad for you and drive both the aging process and menopause.
FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone):
These two hormones were originally discovered as being major players in women’s monthly reproductive cycles.
FSH stimulates the maturation of the human egg called the ovum. Once the egg has matured, LH increases. One of the functions of the increased LH level is to eat away at the follicle so the egg can be released into the fallopian tube for fertilization by the sperm.
However a funny thing happens after the age of female menopause (around age 50) in both men and women. The FSH and LH levels increase by very large amounts of up to 1,000 percent!
These increases were ignored for years by mainstream scientists, but I proposed in my 1998 paper on aging that these hormones actually drove the aging process. Scientists laughed at my proposed idea but facts have been coming out with a vengeance that this is indeed the case!
It turns out that the NIH, not too long ago, has agreed that LH is intimately involved in driving the attack on the brain that causes Alzheimer’s. It has also been found that men with higher levels of LH showed more signs of frailty.
Recently, FSH has been implicated in causing osteoporosis (as predicted in my 1998 paper) as well as age-related weight gain. I expect FSH will also be found to be the cause of the destruction of both heads of the femur that is causing us all to get knee and hip replacements in alarming numbers!
Take a look at the lifetime female LH and FSH levels:
(Men show a similar pattern after the age of 50 except with a relatively larger increase of FSH to LH as compared to females).
So how do you keep these “bad” hormones from increasing?
Thankfully, it is very simple – just take high doses of melatonin. Melatonin suppresses both FSH and LH.
Melatonin suppression of FSH and LH explains why melatonin taken early on in the initial stages of menopause REVERSES menopause and reinitiates the menstrual cycle!
There are a few hormones I did not address like the dramatic decline in Growth Hormone with age. It has been found that mice deficient in growth hormone live much longer than controls, and that GH supplementation can make you look better but does not make you live longer and might even give you diabetes.
So that’s it for this summary! If you would like to know more about hormone changes and aging you can get a much more detailed look at this in my book “What Darwin Could Not See – The Missing Half of the Theory” available at amazon.com.
About the Author
In 2010, Jeff T. Bowles began a series of e-book bestsellers to publish health issues that deal with the problem of healing and aging from an evolutionary perspective. By joining the simple logic of evolution with a large number of diverse facts as well as the results of his 25-year-old private research, Jeff was able to demonstrate a wide range of new, simple, and very effective ways to relieve many chronic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, asthma or age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and ALS. Jeff was the first person who could show in a rat experiment (1997-2001) that rats whose water intake is restricted, live significantly longer (even longer than restricting food). In 1998 his article “The Evolution of Aging – A New Approach to an Old Problem of Biology” was published in the journal Medical Hypotheses. Later he published two other articles in the journal. His hypothesis that the suppression of a certain hormone can stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease resulted in the founding of the company Voyager Pharmaceuticals, which showed in a 50-million dollar project, that the suppression of the hormone LH in women actually prevented the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In his proto-book about ALS he predicted in January of 2013 that progesterone would be the first effective treatment for ALS ever. Six months later some Korean researchers showed that progesterone dramatically extended the lives of male mice in a mouse model of ALS – the equivalent of 17 human years whereas most ALS patients only survive 2 to 4 years.