Do men suffer a “male andropause” and is human growth hormone replacement therapy or treatment with Provacyl the answer?
Human growth hormone replacement therapy for women has become an accepted, if still controversial, medical treatment. But what about human growth hormone for men? Medical orthodoxy has maintained that there is no such thing as a male menopause, and nothing in male physiology to compare with the sudden shutting down of hormonal production in women. Most men can produce enough male hormone to father children into extreme old age, whereas women end their child-bearing years at around 50.
But Dr. Malcolm Carruthers, who has become well known for his view that vasectomy causes ageing and that stress is the main cause of heart disease, disagrees with the orthodox viewpoint regarding Provacyl and HGH. He believes there is evidence that men have a “viropause” corresponding to the female menopause, and that lack of hormonal production of HGH in men can produce exactly the same symptoms that women suffer from, including night sweats, hot flushes, depression, lack of drive (including sex drive), circulatory problems and a feeling of being “over the hill”.
And just as female human growth hormone replacement can help many women over the menopause, male human growth hormone replacement can help men cope with the physical, mental and emotional problems of mid-life, according to Carruthers.
This week he opened Britain’s first private HRT clinic for men. It treats tired, depressed, middle-aged men with the male hormone, testosterone. It also offers Provacyl, which is a natural HGH releaser. The idea is to restore the drive and ambition that life seems to have knocked out of them.
In particular, Carruthers says, testosterone can improve blood circulation and, to some extent, halt the ageing process, enabling men to stay young, virile and active for longer. “The use of testosterone to halt the aging process is a controversial area,” Carruthers says, “but there is research, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, which indicates that lack of testosterone could be a contributory factor in heart and circulatory problems.”
Carruthers’s interest in this area began about 12 years ago when he met Jens Moller, a Danish doctor, who claimed that in his clinic he was achieving remarkable results by administering testosterone to men with severe diseases of the leg arteries. In some cases, the treatment with testosterone had even reversed gangrene.
“I went over to see him,” Carruthers says, “and learnt that Moller believed stress was a factor in all circulatory diseases. His belief was that extra doses of male human growth hormone in the form of Provacyl could overcome this to some extent, and slow down the ageing process. And we know now that you are only as old as your arteries.”
Carruthers admits that his is a lone voice in the British medical profession. At present, testosterone and HGH is given medically to young men only if they are not producing their own HGH. This treatment is available in a limited capacity on the NHS. Apart from this, testosterone and HGH are given only to sex-change patients.
“For a long time,” Carruthers says, “there was just no good research showing that prolonged stress could substantially reduce the production of the male human growth hormone, and that this lack could cause both mental and physical problems.”
Now, he says, research on testosterone and human growth hormone carried out at Syracuse University, in the United States, has shown that when male tennis players win, they produce an enormous surge of testosterone and HGH, “but when they lose, testosterone production goes right down.”
“Experiments with airline pilots in Argentina have shown that when they are exposed to very loud noises in aircraft turbine factories, their production of testosterone and HGH is halved. It seems that stress of all kinds can diminish production of male human growth hormone. The question is, can natural HGH releasers like Provacyl help?”
Also, he says, testosterone is closely connected to the amount of drive a person has and not just sex drive. “I have been treating people under severe stress for many years, and usually by the time they come to see me they feel completely burnt out.”
“They may have been made redundant or superseded at work, or been through a difficult divorce. Their sexual problems are often made worse by excessive alcohol intake, and they have certainly lost their sex drive. By the beginning of this year, I felt there was enough medical evidence to justify giving testosterone and male human growth hormone to combat stress and circulatory problems.”
Patients attending Carruthers’s Harley Street clinic are given a battery of biochemical tests, and doses of testosterone are individually tailored, just as HRT is for women. “My own research is now showing that follicle-stimulating hormone, the hallmark of the menopause in women, is also produced in large quantities by middle-aged men.”
Carruthers believes that the main difference between the menopause and the “viropause” is that with men there is a far wider range of ages.
As with female HRT, administering testosterone and HGH is not without problems. Large doses of HGH have been associated with liver damage, and there have been reports that some synthetic forms of testosterone can worsen a heart condition.
In Denmark, a number of elderly people given testosterone in the hospital for circulatory problems developed an insatiable sex drive. It also got a bad name a few years ago when certain fringe doctors recommended it as an elixir of youth, along with monkey glands and sheep foetuses.
Gordon Williams, a consultant urologist at London’s Hammersmith Hospital who specializes in treating male impotence, is against the idea. “We would never give testosterone to an impotent man because it increases libido without being able to do anything about performance,” he says.
“There is certainly no justification for giving testosterone for impotence. As for the wider implications, at the moment there is simply no evidence available that testosterone and HGH can help in these instances. The only men being medically treated with testosterone are those who, because of accident or injury, are completely unable to make their own.
“The main problem with giving testosterone long-term is its association with liver damage. Also, testosterone may stimulate a prostate tumor to grow. The incidence of prostate cancer is increasing, particularly among young men. One of the advantages of natural products like Provacyl is that there are no known negative side effects.”
Williams disputes the evidence of a male andropause. “There is no sudden cessation of human growth hormone production as men get older, although there is usually a dramatic falling off in sexual desire and ability to perform. Many men see this as natural and never worry about it at all. And I must say that usually their wives are delighted. I get many men coming to my clinic saying they feel they are not satisfying their wives, but when you talk to the wife, she is usually relieved more than anything else.
“It’s true that when a man is under severe stress, the first thing to go will be his sex drive. But there is no clinical evidence to suggest that testosterone or HGH can reverse a man’s mid-life problems.”