According to a preliminary research study conducted at New York University, there may be a very important link between testosterone and Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that affects 10% of people over 65 years old and half of people 85 years and older. Testosterone is thought to have the potential to prevent the accumulation of amyloid, a leading suspect in the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Amyloid is a fibrous protein deposit that develops as a result of abnormally folded versions of proteins found naturally in the human body. When amyloid accumulates, it appears to be toxic to nerve cells. These amyloid accumulations (also known as the condition amyloidosis) interact with others cells in such a way that contributes to the causes of over 20 serious human diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
When top researchers at New York University examined the post-mortem (after death) brains of Alzheimer’s patients, they found large piles of amyloid deposits in the brains. These deposits cause significant damage to nerve cells, so significant in fact that the degraded nerve cells are thought to create the neurological scene in the brain that is necessary to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Due to some cancers being stimulated by the hormone testosterone, testosterone suppression occurs during prostate cancer therapy. Research showed that testosterone suppression had the side effect of raising amyloid levels in the blood. This suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is effectively kept at bay in young people due to the high levels of estrogen in women and the high levels of testosterone in men found during the earlier years of life. Indeed, only when the levels of hormones significantly drop do amyloid levels then reach toxicity. Scientists say this also suggests that sex hormones may prevent amyloid deposits from building-up in the first place.
Researchers plan to continue this foundational study by following the men on testosterone-reducing therapy to see if they develop Alzheimer’s disease. Pending these results, it’s possible that the study will indicate that adding testosterone will in turn offer some protection against the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in women, and it’s quite likely that this innovative approach will work for men as well.
While testosterone has been primarily utilized as a treatment for low male libido, the hormone is found in both men and women. Testosterone helps the body to maintain proper balance, and it acts as a messenger for the body to mediate a number of very important physiological processes. The data on the role of amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease is reportedly so promising that almost every pharmaceutical company in the country is studying it. Additional research may in fact solidify the important preventative links between testosterone and Alzheimer’s disease.