If you read the February 2011 issue of Nutrition and Healing, you learned about breakthrough research which showed that ‘3β-Adiol’ (for the technically inclined, 5α-androstane-3β,17βdiol) is a naturally-occurring anti-carcinogenic metabolite of testosterone present in every man’s body. Researchers experimenting with the metabolite reported the regression of prostate cancer in experimental animals, and wrote: “the effects here described entail a novel potential application of this agent against human PC.”1 In English: ‘3β-Adiol has the potential to treat prostate cancer.’
For several months in 2011, compounding pharmacies in the US were able to supply ‘3β-Adiol’ for relatively reasonable prices. A number of men, who unfortunately had prostate cancer, were able to use this entirely natural testosterone for three or four months, but then it suddenly became unavailable. According to the compounding pharmacists who supplied it, US medical authorities began to interfere with freedom of trade. 3β-Adiol suddenly became entirely unavailable. Surprised, anyone?
Fortunately, researchers are reporting possibilities for stimulating the natural endogenous bio-synthesis (for the technically non-inclined, helping your own body make more) of 3β-Adiol with natural substances. These natural substances work by stimulating 3β-HSD and/or 17βHSD, the enzymes that convert 5αDHT into 3β-Adiol.
But there’s a caution: although these studies are theoretically promising, none of them have, as of yet, actually measured ‘before and after’ quantities of 3β-Adiol itself, but rather activity and/or quantity of the enzymes that lead to 3β-Adiol.
Until this research has been done, the best alternative is measuring the ‘before and after’ levels in individuals, especially those who are found to personally have low 3β-Adiol levels.
(In my own practice, I’ve observed that several of the items I detail below have been associated with improved 3β-Adiol levels in individuals, but it’s too early to report that any one is reliably associated with improvement in low 3β-Adiol levels.)
Stimulate your body to make its own
Let’s start with (no kidding) coconut oil and olive oil. In 20082 and 2009,3 researchers reported that these two oils, used separately, significantly raised testosterone levels in experimental animals. The researchers also measured the activity of the two enzymes that transform 5α-DHT into 3β-Adiol (for the technically inclined, the enzymes 3β-HSD and 17βHSD) and reported that olive oil and coconut oil significantly stimulated them, too.
However, these researchers did not actually report the ‘before and after’ levels of 3β-Adiol which these enzymes are known to produce. So while it’s entirely logical to expect more testosterone (reported) and more 3β-Adiol (not reported) with coconut and olive oils, only the testosterone data is reported ‘for sure.’
Grapeseed and soy oils were included in this research as well, and were found to have no significant effect on testosterone levels or 3βHSD and 17β-HSD activity.
More natural 3β-Adiol stimulators
Several natural substances have been found to stimulate 3β-HSD, one of two of the enzymes that help our bodies synthesize 3β-Adiol. These include the ‘active’ thyroid hormone T3, NADH (for the technically inclined, ‘niacinamide adenine di-nucleotide’), lithium, and a very active form of vitamin A named ‘all-trans retinoic acid’.
Zinc is the well-known ‘male health’ mineral. Studies in male rats have found that zinc deficiency decreased 3β-HSD activity. Zinc deficiency was also associated with a very significant reduction in testosterone itself.4
There’s a strong possibility – although not yet proven – that a weak thyroid may contribute to higher prostate cancer risk. Since hypothyroidism and ‘sub-clinical’ hypothyroidism are relatively common problems, it’s good to be aware of the possibility.
The thyroid hormone T3 stimulates 3β-HSD type 2.5 Although this does suggest that T3 stimulates more 3β-Adiol, there aren’t yet any research publications exploring this possibility. But if you’re a man with a weak thyroid, it might be wise to have your level of 3β-Adiol checked. Or, if you’re a man with low 3β-Adiol, it might be wise to have your thyroid status checked.
3β-HSD also requires NADH,6 but once again there are no studies yet definitively linking NADH supplementation with improved levels of 3β-Adiol.
NADH is a very important ‘co-enzyme’ found in every cell of our bodies. Among the zillions of things NADH does, it works with co-enzyme Q10 to help produce energy. One researcher reported that 79.2 per cent of individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease had a moderate to very good degree of improvement while using NADH.7
In a study of adrenal cell activity, lithium was reported to increase synthesis of 3β-HSD type 2. (Obviously the adrenals and testes are entirely different, but the 3β-HSD enzyme is the same enzyme in both areas so it is worth exploring.) In the UK, lithium is available only by prescription.
Lastly (for now) all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) has been shown to increase 3β-HSD type 2.8 As too much ATRA can become toxic, it is available only by prescription.
Why testing for 3β-Adiol alone is not enough
There’s little point testing 3β-Adiol all by itself. As with oestrogens, there are ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ carcinogenic testosterone metabolites, and – again as with oestrogens – what’s important is the balance between pro-carcinogens and anti-carcinogens. Our bodies make 5α-DHT (often mistakenly called ‘DHT’, but there’s a 5βDHT also) from testosterone. 5α-DHT is pro-carcinogenic, so even with the recent research about 3β-Adiol, when physicians see an elevated 5α-DHT test (which even testing labs label as just ‘DHT’) they frequently recommend reducing that man’s testosterone dose – even if he didn’t feel as well with that lower dose – because of understandable concern about higher cancer risk.
But after testosterone is converted to 5α-DHT, 5α-DHT is in turn normally metabolized into a relatively smaller quantity of 5α-androstane-3α, 17β-diol (abbreviated as ‘3α-Adiol’) and a much larger amount of 5α-androstane-3β,17β-diol (abbreviated as ‘3β-Adiol’). But while nearly all the 3α-Adiol is converted back to 5α-DHT, the 3β-Adiol is not. So, in other words, 3α-Adiol contributes to the pro-carcinogenic side, while 3β-Adiol is an anti-carcinogen (a re-differentiating agent) that activates oestrogen receptor beta, an anti-carcinogenic oestrogen receptor present in large numbers in the prostate gland.9
So along with measuring the testosterone level itself, it’s also important to measure anti-carcinogenic 3β-Adiol and its ‘balance’ with the two pro-carcinogens, 3α-Adiol and 5αDHT. Certain men should be even more concerned about this balance and those include…
Men taking Proscar®, or Propecia® (brand names for ‘finasteride’), or Avodart® (‘dutasteride’). Nearly every man I’ve seen tested while taking these patent medicines has been found to have low levels of 3β-Adiol, and greater quantities of 3α-Adiol and 5α-DHT.
If you’re taking any of these patent medicines, it’s really best to STOP! Even the US medical authorities have this posted on their website: “FDA Drug Safety Communication: 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs) may increase the risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer.”10 Even after you’ve stopped these dangerous patent medicines, it’s best to test to make sure your balance of pro- and anti-carcinogenic testosterones have normalized.
Men taking saw palmetto should check their levels of these testosterones, too. A significant minority of men taking saw palmetto have too little 3β-Adiol, and need to ‘back off’ to an amount which allows their 3β-Adiol to rise and re-balance with the ‘pro-carcinogenic’ testosterones.
Men with a family history of prostate cancer. In addition to testing for these testosterone metabolites, men with this family history should remember to check for pro- and anti-carcinogenic oestrogen metabolites too, as a low ‘2/16’ oestrogen ratio has been associated with higher prostate cancer risk.11
Men using testosterone replacement therapy. For unknown reasons, ‘replacement’ testosterone metabolizes into 5αDHT more than internally secreted testosterone. It’s best to make sure that if this happens, you have a greater quantity of 3β-Adiol than 5α-DHT + 3α-Adiol, more ‘anti-carcinogen’ than ‘pro-carcinogens’.
How to get the test done
Although the situation will very likely change, at present there is only one laboratory in the United States doing the blood test for testosterone, 5α-DHT, 3α-Adiol, and 3β-Adiol. As you might guess, it’s Meridian Valley Laboratory, where I am the medical director. Meridian Valley Laboratory was also the first in the United States to introduce the ‘2/16’ oestrogen test to help assess women’s breast cancer risk in the early 2000s, once again at my request.
Now the ‘2/16’ test is done in many laboratories, including some in the UK.
But even though this test is available at just one laboratory at present, like most blood tests, specimens can be mailed in from anywhere in the United States and some from overseas (including the UK) by both physicians and non-physicians.
For further information for you and your doctor, and instructions for specimen collection and shipping, go to www.meridianvalleylab.com/ testosterone-metabolites.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Volume 6, Issue 12 – December 2012
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.