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The Hormone Theory of Aging

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Updated July 24, 2007

What It Is:

The hormone or endocrine theory of aging asserts that the most important factors in aging are the changes brought about in the body by the endocrine system. The complex endocrine system of our body controls the hormones that regulate many body processes. As we age, these systems become less efficient, leading to changes in our bodies such as menopause. The hormone theory of aging believes that these changes eventually cause the effects of aging.

The Evidence:

There is some. Researchers removed the pituitary gland of mice. This gland controls much of the endocrine system. The researchers then gave the mice all of the hormones that are currently known to substitute for the absence of the pituitary gland. The mice without a pituitary gland lived longer than a control group of normal mice. Researchers concluded that the pituitary must also excrete another, unknown, hormone that negatively impacts aging.

The Bottom Line:

Hormonal changes are an important part of aging. Whether they control the pace at which aging happens or are a consequence of other changes in the body is unknown. It is unlikely that hormone substitution in humans will increase lifespan and can even be dangerous. Some anti-aging doctors will prescribe human growth hormone (HgH), but research does not show that this helps with aging.

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More on Why We Age

Sources:

How Do We Age?. The American Federation for Aging Research.

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