Ageing Science
3 min read

Hormones & Ageing Part. 1

Published on
28 Sep 2023
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Embracing the passage of time rewards us with invaluable wisdom and cherished experiences, but it also ushers in changes that shape our health. Our hormonal balance, a subtle yet powerful force, is at the heart of these transformations. In this vibrant exploration, we’ll unravel the fascinating roles of various hormones, delve into the impact of ageing on our hormonal equilibrium, and uncover empowering strategies to cultivate a healthier, more radiant ageing journey. Let’s dive in!

An overview of some of our hormones

1. Sex Hormones

Picture this: an invisible orchestra of chemical messengers harmoniously orchestrating an astounding array of functions within our bodies. Enter the world of sex hormones - estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone - the master conductors of this biological symphony. While in women, the ovaries and adrenal glands produce estrogen, progesterone, and small amounts of testosterone, in men, the testes produce testosterone, which is then converted to estrogen through a process called aromatization. [1]

  • Estrogen is an essential hormone, playing a vital role in developing female reproductive organs, menstruation, and pregnancy. But its impact extends far beyond reproduction; estrogen also influences bone health, cardiovascular function, and mood [2]. Low estrogen levels in men are generally not a significant concern. However, deficient estrogen levels in males can lead to symptoms similar to high estrogen, including decreased sex drive, increased belly fat, and bone mass loss.
  • Progesterone is a remarkable hormone that plays a vital role in the intricate dance of the menstrual cycle, preparing the uterus for implantation and nurturing pregnancy. Beyond its importance in reproduction, progesterone contributes to our overall health by fine-tuning the immune system and keeping inflammation in check [3]. A recent study found that long-term progesterone treatment helped ovariectomized mice overcome learning impairments, highlighting its crucial role in women’s cognitive health. [4]
  • Testosterone is a hormone that guides the development of male reproductive organs and secondary sexual characteristics and spearhead sperm production. But the influence of testosterone doesn’t stop there; it also plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass, bone density and promoting red blood cell production [5].
Sex hormones significantly influence our mood and cognitive abilities, with estrogen and testosterone each playing their part in shaping our emotional and mental landscape. Estrogen, a master mood regulator, fine-tunes vital neurotransmitter systems like serotonin and dopamine, ensuring emotional stability and well-being [6]. Women may experience mood swings, anxiety, and depression due to fluctuating estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause [7].

Reproductive hormones affect glycans on the immune protein IgG. To learn more about glycans, check our article here. This change might cause heightened inflammatory responses in women nearing menopause. A study of nearly 2,000 women showed that during the menopause transition, the sugar structures on IgG alter, making the protein more prone to inflammation. This shift may increase women’s health risks during and after menopause. Notably, these changes in the IgG protein have been observed in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular diseases, even before the disorders manifest. This suggests the altered protein might play a role in these health issues, emphasising its potential significance in women’s health challenges around menopause. [8] ekei.glytra is the only test on the market giving insights on these glycans IgG, linking them with the biological age.

Meanwhile, testosterone holds the key to cognitive function, motivation, and mood for both men and women. Higher testosterone levels unlock enhanced spatial abilities, memory, and cognitive performance, while lower levels can usher in fatigue, mood changes, and memory issues [9].

2. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): The Unsung Hero of Hormonal Health

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may not have the same star power as its more renowned counterparts. Still, its role as a precursor for producing sex hormones makes it an essential player in our hormonal landscape. DHEA’s responsibilities extend beyond its supporting role, as it actively contributes to maintaining immune function, cognitive health, and stress response.

Primarily produced in the adrenal glands, with smaller amounts synthesised in the gonads and brain, DHEA’s levels naturally decline with age [1]. This decrease can lead to hormonal imbalances and various health concerns [2].

DHEA’s role as a hormonal guardian extends to various aspects of our health, including immune function, cognitive health, and stress response. When it comes to immunity, DHEA expertly modulates cytokine production, the proteins responsible for immune cell signaling. Research suggests that healthy DHEA levels can safeguard against age-related immune decline and lower the risk of infections [3].

The realm of cognitive health also falls under DHEA’s protective umbrella. Studies have unveiled a noteworthy link between DHEA levels and cognitive function, particularly in older adults. Higher DHEA levels correlate with better cognitive performance, while lower levels foreshadow cognitive decline and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease [4].

In the face of stress, DHEA emerges as a resilient hero, adeptly regulating the body’s response by counteracting cortisol, the primary stress hormone. This delicate balance ensures fortitude in life’s inevitable stressors [5].

3. The Dynamic Duo: Growth Hormone and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1

Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) form a formidable partnership in the realm of growth, development, cell regeneration, and repair. Working in tandem, these vital hormones maintain bone density, muscle mass, and body composition.

Growth Hormone (GH) takes centre stage as it emerges from the pituitary gland, driving cell growth, proliferation, and regeneration [1]. With its far-reaching impact on various tissues and organs, GH fuels bone and cartilage development in children while preserving bone density in adults. Its influence extends to muscle mass and body composition, promoting protein synthesis and lipolysis (fat breakdown) [2].

Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) steps into the spotlight, primarily produced in the liver in response to GH, and mediates many of GH’s growth-promoting effects [3]. IGF-1 fosters cell growth and division across diverse tissues, including skeletal muscles, thereby maintaining muscle mass and strength. Its role in bone growth and mineralisation ensures robust bone health [4].

Striking a harmonious balance between GH and IGF-1 levels is essential for achieving optimal health, particularly as we age.


This time, we’ve delved into the types and functions of hormones crucial for healthy ageing. Factors like cognitive abilities and emotions are underpinned by sex hormones, reinforced by DHEA, while GH and IGF-1 play roles in the health of our bones, the body’s structural foundation. In the upcoming continuation of this series, we’ll see how these hormones influence the ageing process and discuss actionable recommendations.


[1]Endocrine Society. Reproductive Hormones.
 [2]Barth, C., Villringer, A., & Sacher, J. (2015). Sex hormones affect neurotransmitters and shape the adult female brain during hormonal transition periods. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 9, 37. 
[3]Estrogen-mediated effects on depression and memory formation in females
[4]Effects of Estrogen on Cognition, Mood, and Degenerative Brain Diseases
[5]Physiology, production and action of progesterone
[6] A preliminary study on progesterone antioxidation in promoting learning and memory of young ovariectomized mice
[7] Harvard Health Publishing. Testosterone - What It Does And Doesn’t Do.
 [8] Beauchet, O. (2006). Testosterone and cognitive function: current clinical evidence of a relationship. European Journal of Endocrinology, 155(6), 773-781.
 [9] Immunoglobulin G glycome composition in transition from premenopause to postmenopause

 [1] Mount Sinai. DHEA.
[2] Endocrine Society. DHEA.
[3] Buford, T. W., & Willoughby, D. S. (2008). Impact of DHEA(S) and cortisol on immune function in ageing: a brief review.
[4] Davis, S. R., Shah, S. M., McKenzie, D. P., Kulkarni, J., Davison, S. L., & Bell, R. J. (2008). Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels are associated with more favourable cognitive function in women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 93(3), 801-808.
[5] Lennartsson, A. K., Kushnir, M. M., Bergquist, J., & Jonsdottir, I. H. (2012). DHEA and DHEA-S response to acute psychosocial stress in healthy men and women
[1] Hormone HealthNetwork. Growth Hormones
[2] Giustina, A., & Veldhuis, J. D. (1998). Pathophysiology of the neuroregulation of growth hormone secretion in experimental animals and the human. Endocrine reviews, 19(6), 717-797.
[3] LeRoith, D., & Yakar, S. (2007). Mechanisms of disease: metabolic effects of growth,hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1. Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology & Metabolism, 3(3), 302-310.
[4] Mohan, S., & Baylink, D. J. (2002). IGF-binding proteins are multifunctional and act via IGF-dependent and -independent mechanisms. The Journal of endocrinology, 175(1), 19-31. 
[5] Bartke, A., & Darcy, J. (2017). GH and ageing: Pitfalls and newinsights. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism