Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Nov 2002

What Nutrients Do I Take?

Thyroid function, deprenyl, DHEA, and diabetes, plus…

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on January 2021.

Are there any supplements I can take to improve my thyroid function?  

Q: My thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is slightly elevated, but my doctor does not feel that I need medication. Are there any supplements I can take to improve my thyroid function?

A: A thyroid deficiency means that the thyroid gland is producing too little hormone. There are two forms of thyroid hormone, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). When the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood decreases to a certain level, the pituitary gland produces more thyroid-stimulating hormone, which elevates the blood level of TSH.

There are several supplements that may help return TSH to normal range. The amino acid tyrosine is a precursor of thyroid hormone; a deficiency of tyrosine can lead to hypothyroidism. The recommended daily amount of tyrosine is about 1 to 1.5 grams per day for adults [ENRfu, Marz 1997]. There are several other supplements that can help with thyroid problems including vitamin A; vitamin B complex; B12; and vitamins C and E; as well as coenzyme Q10; and the minerals magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc, all of which can be found in ample amounts in Life Extension Mix. Deficiencies of any of these minerals can prevent the conversion of T4 to T3. Thyroid hormones are made with iodine molecules. A dietary deficiency of iodine can be a cause of hypothyroidism. Iodine is found in kelp and other seaweeds, and seafood. It is also available in iodized salt. Those who suffer from autoimmune thyroid disease, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ disease, should avoid taking extra iodine because this disorder is not due to iodine deficiency. For some it may irritate the thyroid and make matters worse. For more information, please refer to the Hypothyroidism Protocol.

Gamma E Tocopherol/Tocotrienol  

Q: How many international units of vitamin E are in the Gamma E Tocopherol/Tocotrienol product?

A: The only form of vitamin E that has a standard conversion formula from milligrams to international units is alpha tocopherol. The other forms of vitamin E, beta, gamma and delta, do not have a conversion formula and are therefore listed in milligrams on the bottle. The standard conversion formula for alpha tocopherol cannot be applied to the other forms, since their molecular weights vary. The point to remember is to make sure that your daily total intake of vitamin E contains at least 20% gamma tocopherol. A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (April 1997) suggests that it could be dangerous to take high doses of alpha tocopherol without also consuming gamma tocopherol. What makes this study interesting is that it showed that high doses of alpha tocopherol displace gamma tocopherol in tissues. While alpha tocopherol inhibits the production of free radicals to some degree, it is gamma tocopherol that is required to trap and neutralize existing free radicals. A recent study showed that gamma tocopherol protected brain cells against free radical damage. This study was critical of people taking vitamin E supplements that do not contain at least 20% gamma tocopherol.

Q: I understand that deprenyl is an irreversible MAO-B inhibitor. If I do not have Parkinson's disease, could there be any danger to taking a drug that inhibits this enzyme?

A: Deprenyl is a selective irreversible inhibitor of the MAO-B enzyme, the type of MAO that damages brain cells during “normal” aging. MAO-B degrades dopamine and the depletion of dopamine is the primary factor in the genesis of Parkinson’s disease. Levels of MAO-B increase with advancing age in humans. The theory in taking deprenyl is to conserve dopamine in the brain [Fed Proc, 34:103-107, 1975]. It is also speculated that deprenyl might protect neurons in the brain by mechanisms other than inhibiting MAO-B. Scientists at the University of Toronto found that deprenyl given in doses too small to inhibit MAO-B, preserved neurons from functional damage in tissue culture [J. Neuroscience Res, 30:666-672, 1991, Neuroscience Res, 31:394-400, 1992, Neurochemistry in Clinical Applications, eds. Tang L and Yang S, p. 15-16, Plenum Press, NY 1995]. According to the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) 2002, the recommended dosage of deprenyl to effectively inhibit MAO-B, is 10 mgs per day. If you are taking deprenyl for anti-aging purposes, the Foundation recommends 5 mgs per week, which is only one-fourteenth the dosage for Parkinson’s disease. This dosage will not completely inhibit MAO-B, but is for anti-aging purposes. Animal and cell culture studies suggest that deprenyl may have neuroprotective and anti-aging effects.

Q: Can DHEA have an affect on diabetes?

A: There is some evidence that low DHEA levels are linked to diabetes. Studies indicate that those with poor glucose control or insulin disorders tend to have lower serum DHEA-S levels, and that elevated insulin levels can further decrease DHEA, making matters worse [Eur J Endocrinol 2002 Mar;146(3):375-80; Fuenmayor et al., 1997; Lukaczer, 1999].

In addition, DHEA appears to lower C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which are both used as a prognostic evaluation for diabetes. In light of this information, it is advisable for individuals with diabetes to have their DHEA levels checked.

Q: I note that licorice extract is in Life Extension Herbal Mix, as well as Natural Estrogen. I have read that too much licorice can cause water retention and increased blood pressure. Should I be concerned about using both of these products?

A: Licorice extract can affect the metabolism of corticosteroids, which can lead to symptoms such as hypokalemia, high blood pressure and edema. According to the Physicians Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines, the average dose is around 5 grams of the root daily. Dosages higher than 50 grams per day over an extended period of time will lead to the symptoms listed above. Life Extension Herbal Mix contains 146 milligrams of licorice root extract and Natural Estrogen only contains 12.5 milligrams. These small amounts should not cause any problems.

Q: Am I getting too much selenium if I take Life Extension Mix and Booster capsules?

A: Research on selenium shows that more might be better and that a selenium deficiency can cause adverse health effects. A recent study indicates that higher selenium intake is associated with reduced cancer risk. [Proc Nutr Soc 2002;61(2):203-15]. According to the Merck Manual (2002), toxicity does not occur in humans ingesting less than 900 mcg per day.

fish oil  

Q: You recently published a study citing that 3 grams of fish oil was advocated for treating dyslipidemia. In an article published in Nutrition Action, a publication disseminated by The Center For Science In The Public Interest it said: "If you take fish oil there's no reason to take more than 1 gram daily of EPA and DHA. More than 3 grams may increase the risk of bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke." Could you please comment?

A: The amount of fish oil cited for treating dyslipidemia is for therapeutic purposes. For general health, Life Extension recommends 800 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHA. EPA and DHA interfere with blood clotting, and those who suffer from any type of hemorrhagic disease related to excessive bleeding or blood vessel leakage should consult their physician before supplementing with these fatty acids. Those taking anticoagulant drugs like Coumadin (warfarin) should inform their doctor that they are taking EPA or DHA supplements. The physician may want to adjust the dose of anticoagulant medication based on blood tests that measure coagulation factors such as prothrombin (PT) and INR. According to a study in the Journal of American Medicine, higher consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a reduced risk of thrombotic infarction, primarily among women who do not take aspirin regularly, but is not related to risk of hemorrhagic stroke [JAMA: 2001 Jan 17;285(3):304-12].