Estrogen-only trial halted The estrogen-alone arm of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Trial, the multicenter trial which previously found that combined estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy increased the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and breast cancer, has been halted early by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who found that the risk of stroke is also increased by taking estrogen only. Eleven thousand women in the current study have been advised to stop taking their pills, and the follow-up phase has been initiated. The previous findings of combined hormone replacement therapy's health risks led to that portion of the study being terminated early as well, and to thousands of postmenopausal women abandoning hormone replacement therapy in the wake of the findings' announcement.
The Women's Health Initiative includes more than 161,000 participants involved in studies investigating preventive measures for heart disease, fractures, breast and colorectal cancer. In addition to studying the effects of hormone replacement therapy, ongoing trials are studying the effects of a low-fat diet as well as supplementation calcium and vitamin D.
Concerning the current study, the National Institutes of Health have concluded that while estrogen alone does not increase or decrease the risk of heart disease or breast cancer, and while hip fracture risk was reduced, the risk of stroke was increased. Preliminary findings of a separate WHI study examining the effect of estrogen alone on memory suggest that estrogen alone is associated with an increased risk of dementia and/or mild cognitive impairment compared to placebo.
The NIH believes the current findings concerning increased stroke risk are unacceptable in a healthy study population, particularly if estrogen alone has no benefit in heart disease. They have also determined that adequate data have been collected at this point in the trial to assess estrogen's benefits and risks.
Female Hormone Replacement Therapy An important and widely studied plant component used to treat menopause is a standardized extract from the black cohosh plant, which is also known as Cimicufuga racemosa. This black cohosh extract is approved by the German Ministry of Health (The German Komission E) for the treatment of menopausal symptoms related to estrogen deficiency. Standardized black cohosh has been trademarked under the name Remifemin for sale as a drug in countries throughout the world. More than 1.7 million women in Europe and Australia have used this natural herbal extract to treat menopausal symptoms. Clinical studies show that Remifemin alleviates not only hot flashes, but also depression, anxiety, vaginal atrophy, and a host of other menopause-related disorders (Liske 1998).
A fascinating early study involved 60 women who were given standardized black cohosh extract, Valium, or Premarin (synthetic estrogen) for menopausal symptoms. The women in the black cohosh group were relieved of their depression and anxiety more effectively than the women in the Valium or Premarin groups (Warnecke 1985).
Another early study of black cohosh extract involved women under age 40 who produced very little natural estrogen or progesterone because their ovaries had been removed by hysterectomy. One group received estriol (a weak, but safer form of estrogen); the second group received Premarin; the third took Premarin and a progestin drug; the fourth group was given black cohosh extract; and the fifth group received a placebo. This 24-week study rated the women according to symptoms, including hot flashes, irritability, heart palpitations, etc. The results of the study demonstrated that women in all groups receiving different forms of estrogen-progestin and black cohosh extract experienced a 30% improvement. No improvement was seen in the placebo group. At the conclusion of the study, the majority of women receiving the estrogen drugs or black cohosh extract were symptom free. Most importantly, the women receiving the black cohosh extract reported fewer side effects. This study showed that phytotherapy with standardized black cohosh worked as well as estrogen drugs, but produced fewer uncomfortable and dangerous side effects (Lehmann-Willenbrock et al. 1988).
In an attempt to provide aging women with the multiple health effects of estrogen without side effects, scientists have developed plant extracts with estrogenic activity (phytoestrogens).
Natural Estrogen is one answer to concerns about the risks of synthetic estrogen replacement. Although women can go “cold turkey” from estrogen drugs to Natural Estrogen without adverse side effects, it is recommended that women who have been taking estrogen drugs gradually wean themselves off these drugs.
Pregnenolone is biochemically, the “mother hormone,” made directly from cholesterol within the mitochondria.
A partial list of pregnenolone's diverse benefits include:
No negative feedback loop: once produced, pregnenolone leaves the mitochondria so it cannot inhibit its own synthesis.
By two different pathways, it converts to DHEA and progesterone (which cannot be made from DHEA).
Enzyme repair: pregnenolone stimulates the cytochrome P-450 enzyme system which is important in neutralizing cellular toxins.
Protection from cortisol/cortisone: cortisol levels increase with normal aging causing a host of age-related maladies. Pregnenolone protects against adrenal atrophy when withdrawing cortisone therapy, and helps protect against the effects of elevated cortisol.
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