Endocrine function tends to decline with age, hormonal disorders, lifestyle, stress, and nutritional intake. Therefore, providing knowledge about how macro and micronutrient supplementation can improve our endocrine function is fundamental. Micronutrient supplementation also provides an extra layer to an individuals treatment since it focuses on supplying the nutrient needed to synthesize hormones.
The age-related decline of endocrine function affects women and me. Indeed, it is usually related to reduced testosterone synthesis in men and estrogen in women and lower secretion of insulin-like growth hormone-1 (IGF-1). Furthermore, all of these changes, along with oxidative stress, malnutrition, and inflammation, can be followed by a condition called Sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia is defined as a syndrome characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength with a risk of adverse outcomes such as physical disability, poor quality of life, and death.
Major risks of sarcopenia:
The answer to a wide variety of risk factors is applying a multifaceted treatment protocol, including micronutrient supplementation. A growing number of studies have reported that certain micronutrients can be used to treat sarcopenia, most of them acting as a cofactor for hormonal synthesis and metabolism. Indeed, some of the vitamins related to androgen metabolism, testosterone concentrations, and SHBG include vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, iron, selenium, magnesium, and zinc.
On the other hand, estrogen synthesis has been associated with vitamin C, D, E, and A. Indeed, the relevance of metabolites of vitamin A like carotenoids and lycopene is also associated with an increased synthesis of IGF-1. Therefore, these findings suggest that dietary intake and/or supplementation are strongly associated with endocrine function.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines interact with the age-related hormonal changes. This further contributes to the development of musculoskeletal disease. Therefore, antioxidant and protective effects of micronutrients like vitamin A, C, and E with the intervention of zinc, magnesium, and selenium have been effective in treating this condition.
A systematic review that analyzed 26 trials assessing multiple micronutrients and hormonal function interactions found that the results were unclear and more studies were needed. Indeed, vitamin D and zinc supplementation had no significant impact on IGF-1, testosterone, SHBG, or estradiol synthesis. Also, selenium appeared to have a slight effect on testosterone as well as zinc had over IGF-1.
Micronutrients, iodine, and thyroid hormones
Another systematic review assessed the effects of micronutrients on thyroid function and iodine had on hormonal levels of T3 and T4. It is well known that iodine plays an essential role in the synthesis of T3 and T4, but nutrients like selenium, zinc, copper, and vitamin have shown to be involved in thyroid function.
Selenium: a fundamental part of selenoproteins associated with protecting the thyroid gland from oxidative stress and synthesis regulation of thyroid hormones.
Iron: part of a heme-derived enzyme that promotes the peroxidation of T4 and converts it to T3.
Vitamin A: required to have a proper iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. Therefore, being deficient in vitamin A will lead to the impairment of thyroglobulin synthesis.
Zinc: it works hand in hand with selenium to convert T4 to its active form, T3.
The last study concludes once a micronutrient is deficient, most of them are. Such a condition is associated with a deficient diet or insufficient energy intake, mostly seen in a caloric restrictive diet, absorption impairment, and a plant-based diet. Besides, it ensures that the assessment of micronutrient deficiency is essential and should be treated with supplementation. Otherwise, dietary ingestion or supplementation of iodine may not have the proper effect on hormonal synthesis.
Overall, these previous studies conclude that analyzing hormone levels can be complex, therefore reflecting inconsistent evidence. Besides, hormone ranges are tightly regulated, and their fluctuations may not reflect a major variation. As the studies reported, hormonal function and synthesis have an age-related decline, and as they are controlled by cycles, their levels might change with this factor. These last characteristics add that most of the results reviewed in these articles were difficult to compare and analyze.
OKane, S. Maria, et al. Micronutrients, iodine status and concentrations of thyroid hormones: a systematic review. Nutrition reviews 76.6 (2018): 418-431.
Marzetti, Emanuele, et al. Sarcopenia: an overview. Aging clinical and experimental research 29.1 (2017): 11-17.
Janjuha, Ryan, et al. Effects of Dietary or Supplementary Micronutrients on Sex Hormones and IGF-1 in Middle and Older Age: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients 12.5 (2020): 1457.
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