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J Nutr Health Aging. 1998;2(1):39-44.

Sex steroids, the insulin-like growth factor regulatory system, and aging: implications for the management of older postmenopausal women.

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M.D. Maine Center for Osteoporosis Research and Education St. Joseph Hospital Bangor, 04401, USA.


Aging is associated with profound changes in the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) regulatory system. These include reductions in growth hormone, IGF-I, IGFBP3, and IGFBP-5 and an increase in IGFBP-4. These changes, coupled with rather marked declines in sex steroid production from both the ovary and adrenals may combine to have very deleterious effects on several organ systems in the postmenopausal woman. In particular, the prevalence of two very common diseases, osteoporosis and coronary artery disease, increase dramatically after the cessation of gonadal steroid production. The complex interrelationship between the IGF regulatory system and estrogens/androgens in the postmenopausal period may provide important clues as to the pathophysiology of both these disorders. In this paper, we begin to define the role of IGF-I (and its constituent IGF binding proteins) in skeletal and vascular tissue. Recent experimental data show the effects of estrogen on circulating and tissue IGFs in older individuals. Finally, estrogen replacement therapy affects the IGF regulatory system in postmenopausal women. Although conclusions from early studies remain somewhat preliminary, it is likely that the IGF regulatory system will be a prime target for future studies into the pathogenesis of several age and sex hormone related degenerative disorders.

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