By Dr. David Blyweiss on 07/11/2010
I've discovered that many people believe in the old saying that (to paraphrase Betty Davis) aging is not for sissies. In fact, I’ve heard from more than a few seniors that trying to manage the physical deterioration as they grow older is akin to the little Dutch boy plugging holes in the dike. They bounce from doctor to doctor, racking up a variety of diagnoses, along with an array of prescription drugs to control them.
But what if I told you that you can halt—and even reverse—the energy drain and loss of strength that can accompany aging by encouraging your body’s natural hormones that help keep you active and energetic? You can! And it isn’t costly or complicated.
The secret to healthy hormone levels lie in the very building blocks of life: amino acids.
How Important Are Hormones?
How important are hormones? Without optimum hormone levels, your skin becomes less elastic, bone and muscle strength diminishes, and you may have a tendency to gain weight. Eventually, you can lose your vigor, stamina and sex drive. Hormonal deficiency also affects your cardiovascular and immune systems, leaving you vulnerable to disease.
One study in the New England Journal of Medicine links the normal decline of growth hormone (GH) to the weight gain and thinning skin that accompany aging. Another study by Danish researchers found that replacing human growth hormone (HGH) in GH-deficient adults significantly increased exercise capacity, isometric muscle strength, blood pressure and resting heart rate. And new evidence from the University of St. Louis suggests that boosting testosterone levels can improve sexual function, bone density, muscle mass, heart health, cognition, quality of life and more. But as we age, these hormones that keep us strong and healthy begin to decline. By age sixty they may have dropped as much as 80 percent!
Risky and Expensive
But directly replacing hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone can be risky and expensive. That’s why you should look for a supplement that is a comprehensive blend of the specific amino acids that are needed to increase the body’s own hormone-releasing agents. Often called precursors or secretagogues, these amino acids stimulate the pituitary gland to produce and release more of its own growth hormone. This synergistic amino acid complex also encourages the body to boost its production of testosterone. The effect on the body is to lessen the impact of the factors thought to be related to aging.
To give you an idea of just how powerful amino acids are in the quest to stay vibrant, let’s look at just three key amino acids:
L-Arginine is an essential amino acid, meaning that the body cannot create it on its own; it must get it from the foods that we eat. A number of clinical trials show that arginine effectively stimulates the secretion of GH, which in turn increases fat burning and the building of muscle tissue. It also boosts immunity, protects the liver and detoxifies harmful substances. Some studies show that arginine can also help restore sexual function in men by increasing nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays a key role in initiating and maintaining an erection.
L-Glutamine is the latest amino acid to generate excitement as a GH-releaser thanks to a study by researchers at Louisiana State University College of Medicine in Shreveport. This landmark study showed that a surprisingly small oral dose of glutamine raised growth hormone levels more than four times over that of a placebo. Even more exciting, age did not diminish the response—at least in this small study of volunteers who ranged from thirty-two to sixty-four years.
The immune system and the gut thrive on glutamine. If the body does not produce enough, muscle loss and immune dysfunction can occur. Glutamine is a key to the metabolism and maintenance of muscle tissue. It is the primary energy source for the immune system, and is essential for DNA synthesis, cell division and cell growth. Glutamine also crosses the blood-brain barrier into the brain, where it increases energy and mental alertness.
L-Ornithine is a nutrient that consists of ornithine bound with two molecules of alpha ketogutarate. Ornithine has GH-stimulating effects. It is also a precursor to glutamine, which means that it enhances the body’s ability to increase glutamine levels. Research suggests that ornithine, along with arginine, promotes muscle-building activity in the body by increasing levels of anabolic (growth-promoting) hormones like insulin and growth hormone. And like arginine, ornithine helps to increase the production of nitric oxide. Ornithine not only supports detoxification pathways, but a healthy cardiovascular system as well.
Of course, these amino acids aren’t a magic bullet. A poor diet, lack of exercise, exposure to preservatives, cigarettes, alcohol and refined foods can all promote disease and accelerate the aging process. But, combined with a healthy lifestyle, they can give you an edge against aging.
Bassil N, et al. The benefits and risks of testosterone replacement therapy: a review. Therapeutic and Clinical Risk Management. 2009;5:427-448.
Scalera F, et al. Paradoxical effect of L-arginine: acceleration of endothelial cell senescence. Biochemcal and Biophysical Research Communications. 2009;386:650-655.
Welbourne TC. Increased plasma bicarbonate and growth hormone after an oral glutamine load. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1995;61:1058-1061.