ANOTHER EFFECT OF SUGAR
Besides the belly fat, when men consume too much sugar or simple carbohydrate, they begin making less testosterone (they are said to have "LOW T"). Although the result is certainly a lower sex drive, low libido is only the tip of the iceberg.
When women consume too much sugar, just the opposite occurs --- they make too much testosterone (HERE). Not only does this cause a diminished sex drive as well, but it tends to cause copious amounts of body hair as well as infertility.
SUGAR FEMINIZES MEN / SUGAR TURNS MEN INTO WOMEN
Have you ever heard of SKINNY FAT (sometimes referred to as MONW)? In a study from a 2013 issue of PLoS One (Prediabetes Is Associated with an Increased Risk of Testosterone Deficiency, Independent of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome), eight Taiwanese physicians and researchers concluded that, "current evidence suggests that the causative relationship between testosterone deficiency and diabetes might be bidirectional, or even multidirectional and interrelated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, sex hormone-binding globulins (SHBG), and other factors." In other words, whichever comes first is not so important since either one can cause the other.
A 2009 issue of the Argentinian journal, Arquivos Brasileiros de Endocrinologia & Metabologia (The Role of Testosterone in Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome in Men), concluded that, "Over the last three decades, it has become apparent that testosterone plays a significant role in glucose homeostasis and lipid metabolism. The metabolic syndrome is a clustering of risk factors predisposing to diabetes mellitus type 2, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The main components of the syndrome are visceral obesity, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, raised blood pressure and dyslipidemia (elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), and a pro-inflammatory and thrombogenic state. Cross-sectional epidemiological studies have reported a direct correlation between plasma testosterone and insulin sensitivity, and low testosterone levels are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus." This is saying that not only is the person described here a heart attack / stroke looking for a place to happen, it's only a matter of time before things stop working in the bedroom.
Another 2009 study, this one from the Journal of Andrology (The Dark Side of Testosterone Deficiency: Metabolic Syndrome and Erectile Dysfunction) stated, "The metabolic syndrome is considered the most important public health threat of the 21st century. This syndrome is characterized by a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors including increased central abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, reduced high-density lipoprotein, high blood pressure, increased fasting glucose, and hyperinsulinemia. Reduced androgen levels [testosterone and precursors] increase cardiovascular risk factors and produce marked adverse effects on cardiovascular function. Metabolic syndrome has been associated with erectile dysfunction, and may be considered a risk factor for erectile dysfunction." Like I said, ED is probably the least of your worries once this vicious cycle starts spinning.
One of the things that DIABETES and blood sugar dysregulation does is foul up the body's ability to circulate blood --- one of the chief reasons (along with NEUROPATHY) that virtually all diabetics struggle with foot ulcers. Be aware, however, that this lack of blood flow is not confined to feet, but affects the genitals as well. Not surprisingly, ED is the result. But it's actually much worse than initially appears as far as sugar turning men into women is concerned, and as you might suspect, it has to do with THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM.
Did you realize that body fat (adipose tissue) --- particularly the belly fat packed around your internal organs --- has the potential to act as it's own estrogen-producing gland (HERE, HERE, or HERE)? If you cruise on over to PubMed and search the term "Adipose Tissue as an Endocrine Organ," you'll find page after page after page of studies --- hundreds of them --- that have either this exact name or a similar variation. Here's one from a 2013 issue of the kidney journal, Seminars in Nephrology (The Adipose Tissue as an Endocrine Organ), where the authors concluded that, "Since 1994, white adipose tissue was recognized as an endocrine organ and an important source of biologically active substances with local and/or systemic action called adipokines. Inappropriate secretion of several adipokines by the excessive amount of white adipose tissue seems to participate in the pathogenesis of obesity-related pathologic processes including endothelial dysfunction, inflammation, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney disease." Hold on to your seats because here is where the train start to go off the rails.
Although there were about 2,500 studies in this specific topic, I'm going to leave you with just one --- a piece of research from last September's issue of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Reports (Extra-Gonadal Sites of Estrogen Biosynthesis and Function)........
"Recent evidence indicates that estrogens play important roles in the immune system, cancer development, and other critical biological processes related to human well-being. Obviously, the gonads (ovary and testis) are the primary sites of estrogen synthesis, but estrogens synthesized in extra- gonadal sites play an equally important role in controlling biological activities...... Adipose tissues are considered to be the major source of circulating estrogen after the gonads in both men and women, and the contribution made by the adipose tissues to the total circulating estrogens increases with advancing age."
If you did not grasp the importance of this paragraph, read it until you do. As you get older --- or fatter --- your fatty tissues are going to make more estrogen. If everything were in perfect HOMEOSTASIS, this would be wonderful as your body fat takes the place of your post-menopausal ovaries. The problem is that with ESTROGEN DOMINANCE already being a huge issue in both females and males here in America, we can begin to see how BELLY FAT (visceral adiposity) is affecting our population, setting up a vicious cycle of obesity and hormonal disruption.
And in case you were not aware, estrogen is the hormone given to commercially-raised livestock (beef & pork) in order to make them fat (peer-review frequently refers to commercially-raised animals --- particularly beef --- as "obese"). Estrogen is why the average woman carries about 10% more body fat than the average man. While men certainly need a bit of estrogen to function normally, anything more than that is a problem --- a big problem. Enter the Endocrine Disruptors and Aromatases (yes, they are affected by sugar because NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease), caused mostly by being overweight, dramatically affects your ability for your liver to clear excess hormones (HERE).
I recently showed you how we are all being exposed to a vast array of XENOHORMONES (most of which are estrogen-based 'obesigens') and ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS. In case you think that this is no big deal, let me hit you with a study from the 2007 of a Spanish journal Revista de Investigacion Clinica (Endocrine Disruptor Compounds and their Role in the Developmental Programming of the Reproductive Axis). This study showed that, "Different perturbations during fetal and postnatal development unleash endocrine adaptations that permanently alter metabolism, increasing the susceptibility to develop later disease, process known as "developmental programming." Endocrine disruptor compounds are widely spread in the environment and display estrogenic, anti-estrogenic or anti-androgenic [anti-testosterone] activity; they are stored for long periods in the adipose tissue. The effects on the reproductive axis depend on the stage of development and the window of exposure, as well as the dose and the compound. The wide distribution of endocrine disrupting compounds into the environment affects both human health and ecosystems in general." In other words, many of us --- maybe most of us, whether male or female --- are being doused in estrogen from conception to death, and unfortunately, the problems it's causing are "permanent". And we wonder why our hormones are screwed up.
The commonest medical solution for men with Low T is giving them testosterone in various forms. While this sometimes helps for awhile, the results are usually short-lived. This is because your body's stunted / altered feedback loops are not only not addressed by this method of therapy, it actually makes the situation worse. Why? It's common knowledge that when men take Anabolic Steroids, their own testicles, sensing that there is plenty of testosterone in their system, shut down production. And this doesn't even begin to address the issue of STRESS.
When we get stressed, (the stress can come in numerous forms including emotional, physical, and / or dietary --- ie JUNK FOOD and JUNK CARBS) we release the ADRENAL HORMONE, cortisol. Among other things, cortisol makes us fat (see previous link). Bear in mind that it is impossible to solve adrenal issues without first addressing blood sugar. And unfortunately, the hits keep coming.
If you have not heard of aromatase, you need to become informed. According to Wikipedia, "Aromatase, also called estrogen synthetase, is an enzyme responsible for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogens. It is CYP19A1, a member of the cytochrome P450 superfamily that catalyze many reactions involved in steroidogenesis. In particular, aromatase is responsible for the aromatization of androgens into estrogens. The aromatase enzyme can be found in many tissues, as well as in tissue of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer." Since we have a P-450 ENZYME that among other things, turns testosterone into estrogen, it's critical that we figure out what upregulates it.
As might make sense, aromatase inhibitors are used by the medical community to block estrogen in women dealing with BREAST CANCER. Interestingly enough, I found a number of studies from mainstream medical journals touting various anti-inflammatory HERBS, vitamins (C and D) or other compounds that act as inhibitors of estrogen as well. For instance, just two years ago, the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention (Inhibitory Aromatase Effects of Flavonoids from Ginkgo Biloba Extracts on Estrogen Biosynthesis) concluded that, "Our results support the usefulness of flavonoids in adjuvant therapy for breast cancer by reducing estrogen levels with reduced adverse effects."
As far as upregulating the aromatase enzyme, I found almost 10,000 studies on the subject. And although there are slews of studies about biochemical compounds that I've frankly never heard of before, the big picture is fairly clear. What do I mean by "Big Picture"? A few years ago, the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology (Aromatase Up-Regulation, Insulin and Raised Intracellular Estrogens in Men, Induce Adiposity, Metabolic Syndrome and Prostate Disease) put it this way.
"For some years now, reduced testosterone levels have been related to obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, benign prostatic hypertrophy and even prostate cancer, with little attention paid to the important role of increased estrogen, in the pathogenesis of these chronic diseases. Testosterone is metabolized to estradiol by P450 aromatase, to increase estradiol concentration at the expense of testosterone. It follows therefore, that any compound that up-regulates aromatase, or any molecule that mimics oestrogen, will not only increase the activation of the mainly proliferative, classic ER-α, estrogen receptors to induce adipogenesis [obesity] and growth disorders [cancer / endometriosis] in oestrogen-sensitive tissues.... This paper simplifies how stress, xeno-oestrogens, poor dietary choices and reactive toxins up-regulate aromatase to increase intracellular oestradiol production."
The authors went on to explain how the described situation is related to insulin resistance, fat deposition (especially around the midsection), metabolic syndrome, BPH, PROSTATE CANCER, obesity, gynecomastia [man boobs], Type II diabetes, low testosterone, and increased estrogen levels in men, among many others.
Although I came across many similar, I also found a study in a 2010 issue of Toxicology Letters (Bisphenol A-induced Aromatase Activation is Mediated by Cyclooxygenase-2 Up-regulation in Rat Testicular Leydig Cells) showing that the combination of inflammation and BPA created, "increased aromatase gene expression and its enzyme and promoter activity, but reduced testosterone synthesis; increased COX-2 mRNA expression and promoter activity, the production of prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), and the gene expression of PGE(2) (EP2 and EP4) receptors." PGE2 and the COX-2 enzyme are both extremely inflammatory (COX-2 INHIBITORS are ultra common in Western Society).
And finally, we get to the hormonal FUBAR that occurs thanks to brain dysfunction (HPA-AXIS). When the body is low on either sperm or testosterone in males, the feedback loop kicks in and tells the HYPOTHALAMUS to send out a hormone called GRH (Gonaditrophin Releasing Hormone). This acts on the PITUITARY GLAND, telling it to release FSH to make sperm and LH to make both testosterone and SHBG. Any number of brain dysfunctions or certain kinds of drugs (particularly THIS MED taken by over 10% of the American population) can throw a monkey wrench into this pathway, leading to all sorts of dysfunction with the sex hormones.
SUGAR MASCULINIZES WOMEN / SUGAR TURNS WOMEN INTO MEN
PCOS is the number one female issue in America, affecting approximately 10% of the women of child-bearing age (some studies say the actual number is closer to 1 in 5) --- more than half of which are unaware or undiagnosed. Intimately linked to INSULIN RESISTANCE, there are many who believe it is another manifestation of diabetes / pre-diabetes in similar fashion to the way that Alzheimer's is widely known in the scientific community as TYPE III DIABETES. And while numerous stories and studies will tell you that PCOS is genetic, at best this is only partially true. Like hundreds of other health issues with a genetic component, the problem is far more related to EPIGENETICS than genetics.
Because there are no definitive blood or lab tests, the diagnosis is usually made clinically. What does it look like? The tell-tale cluster of symptoms includes....
- EXCESS TESTOSTERONE: Along with IR, this is the symptom that drives the others. Be aware that as I showed you earlier, testosterone overproduction is often the result of overproduction of LH (luteinizing hormone), which is a pituitary hormone. Another theory gaining traction in the scientific community is that this excess testosterone is the result of Androgen Receptor Resistance (HERE) --- which, kind of like Insulin Resistance, simply means the body has become "resistant" to the effects of testosterone (often times because the receptor sites are saturated), telling the body to make even more. While this is certainly true, It's hard to argue that it's not ultimately the result of IR.
- EXCESS HAIR GROWTH: Known as "hirsutism" medically, women with PCOS will grow hair in places they otherwise would not (particularly the face), as well as growing excess body hair in places they normally would. Interestingly enough, it is not uncommon to see women with PCOS develop or begin to develop male pattern baldness --- sometimes confused with THYROID ISSUES --- which are also not uncommon with PCOS.
- ACNE: ACNE (including "backne") is a common sequelae of PCOS.
- INFERTILITY: Already discussed and left a link.
- CHRONIC FATIGUE, ALTERED MOOD, AND LOW LIBIDO: All of these are characteristic of excess testosterone in women. Even though testosterone is the hormone that drives libido in both men and women, when women get too much of a good thing, it becomes a bad thing --- a very bad thing. For the record, realize that PCOS is one of the myriad of health issues considered to be "inflammatory". DEPRESSION is on this list as well.
- WEIGHT ISSUES: Women with PCOS have, or eventually will have if they are currently teenagers, difficulty losing weight. And, as we have already discussed, a common scenario is to see women who have man-like bellies (Central Obesity). As for those of you who say that this can't be your issue because you are normal weight, make sure to check out my earlier link on "Skinny Fat".
- DARKENING OF THE SKIN AROUND THE NECK: Known as "acanthosis nigricansis," it also occurs beneath the breasts and in the groin areas.
- SKIN TAGS: These are usually found in the armpit or the neck region.
- SLEEP APNEA: SLEEP APNEA is extremely common in women with PCOS.
Although the most common medical treatments include androgen-blockers, DIABETES DRUGS, STATINS, and going on "The Pill," these aren't very effective over the long term, while creating an array of extremely nasty SIDE EFFECTS. Be aware that plugging "PCOS" into PubMed brought up 12,500 studies to wade through. Although I only looked through a few dozen, not surprisingly I found plenty linking it to Endocrine Disruptors. Some others included CHRONIC SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION, reduced TREGS (making you susceptible to AUTOIMMUNITY), increased HOMOCYSTEINE and decreased GLUTATHIONE levels, not enough VITAMIN D, OSTEOPOROSIS, and NAFLD. If I had more time, I could have found studies linking it to any number of others.
WHETHER MALE OR FEMALE, WHAT SHOULD YOU
DO IF YOU RECOGNIZE YOURSELF IN THIS POST?
Although there might be any number of people dealing with the situations discussed in today's post who could use some help from a FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST, the truth is, many of you --- probably the majority of you (possibly even the vast majority of you) --- can start addressing this crisis on your own. And here's the doubly cool part of all this. I've given you a generic protocol free of charge (HERE) for helping resolve the behind-the-scenes inflammation. Getting started might be the hardest thing you've ever done, but after a week or two, it gets easier. Stick with it and you may even end up with results like THIS.
Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).
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