Author Archives: Dr. G. Pepper

About Dr. G. Pepper

Board Certified by the American Boards of Internal Medicine, and Endocrinology and Metabolism Dr. Pepper received his medical degree from the Tufts School of Medicine in Boston. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Montefiore-Einstein Medical Center in New York. In addition, Dr. Pepper completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. From 1989 to 1994 Dr. Pepper served as Chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx. From 1994 to 1996, he was Associate Chief of Medicine at Brooklyn Hospital Center, director of the hospital’s Diabetes Treatment Center, and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Pepper has published numerous articles in distinguished journals such as Archives of Internal Medicine, American Journal of Medicine, Fertility and Sterility, the New England Journal of Medicine and co-authored a textbook chapter on the relationship between hormones and psychiatric illness. In recognition of these accomplishments Dr. Pepper was selected as one of the top 100 physicians in New York City by New York Magazine. He is also a featured expert with CNBC and ivillage on topics of diabetes and endocrinology. Dr. Pepper joined Palm Beach Diabetes and Endocrine Specialists in 1996. Of the practice of medicine he says, Almost daily I reread the words of Sir William Osler: "It’s often more important to know what sort of person this disease has than to know what disease the person has."

Infertility to Acne: Treatment and Prevention of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Part 2


Worried about pregnancyIn part one of this series we looked at the cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and the many complications it causes. Weight gain, acne, excess hair growth on the face and body,  high cholesterol and high blood sugar due to insulin resistance are among the problems associated with PCOS.  One particular area of concern for PCOS sufferers is infertility due to lack of ovulation. PCOS is the cause of anovulatory infertility in  3 out of 4 cases. Before the acceptance of medical therapy for infertility due to PCOS  a surgical approach referred to as a wedge resection of the ovary was performed which allowed patients with PCOS to ovulate and conceive normally. Low success rates with this procedure, complications of surgery and improved medical therapies have all resulted in the end of this type of treatment in most situations.  At present, treatment of infertility associated with PCOS generally consists of using a drug to combat insulin resistance known as metformin often in combination with the fertility drug clomid, which has a high rate of success.

Treatment of the excess hair growth associated with PCOS often consists of using the drug spironalactone and the use of birth control pills. Spironalactone is a very interesting drug used for decades as a salt depleting diuretic but also has an effect to block the action of the male hormone testosterone. The action of spironalactone to block testosterone was discovered when it was noticed that men using this diuretic developed tender nipples and breast enlargement (gynecomastia). Oral contraceptive agents are also useful to combat hirsutism because these agents also cause reduce testosterone levels by putting the ovary in a dormant “resting” state.  Cosmetic procedures are always another option to treat unwanted hair growth. Laser hair removal appears to be replacing the older modality of electrolysis for this purpose.

Can PCOS be cured? Once PCOS develops it can be controlled but not cured unless the ovaries are removed. At menopause  PCOS-related problems diminish as the ovary stops making sex hormones including testosterone which is one of the culprits during the reproductive years. A recent study published this year in the journal Pediatric Endocrinology showed that using metformin treatment in pre-adolescent girls thought to be at risk for PCOS reduces the risk and/or the severity of PCOS in later years. It may do this by blocking fat accumulation in the abdomen and liver which seems to set off the insulin resistance. Metformin is not FDA approved for this purpose and as a generic drug there is little profit potential in developing this treatment. I expect it will be many years before preventive therapy for PCOS will come before the FDA for approval .

This information is strictly for educational purposes. Due to high risk of toxicity of medical therapy in young women who can potentially become fertile under treatment for PCOS, no drug should be taken without the close supervision of a physician. The reader agrees to the Terms of Service of this website, metabolism.com

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Is Common in Adolescent Girls


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) sounds like a rare disorder but it is surprisingly common. This is a disorder with onset in early adolescence effecting up to 10% of young women. Characteristic signs and symptoms include increasing facial and body hair, hair loss from the scalp, muscular or heavy build, acne, thickening and darkening of the skin known as acanthosis nigricans, blood sugar problems including type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and irregular menstrual cycles and infertility. In older women with PCOS coronary artery disease is more common. In severe cases deepening of the voice and enlargement of the clitoris (clitoromegaly) can be seen. Before the underlying hormone disorders were clarified, the main method of diagnosing this disorder was by finding multiple cysts on the ovary. We now understand that the main problem is not the ovarian cysts but metabolic disorders including insulin resistance and elevated male hormone levels (testosterone) in the blood.

Another misconception about PCOS is that it only occurs in overweight women. Obesity is common in PCOS but thin women are also capable of developing PCOS. The underlying hormone problems are complex but are thought to be at least in part due to high insulin levels in the blood resulting from insulin resistance. With insulin resistance the body requires high levels of insulin due to insensitivity of the tissues to insulin’s presence.
What treatments are available for PCOS? There are very few, if any, drugs specifically approved for the treatment of PCOS. This is probably because of the low profit potential for treating this disorder. Drug companies cannot afford to invest millions of dollars in research because almost all of the existing standard therapies are generic drugs. Some of the most useful medications for treating PCOS are drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes because of their effect to reduce insulin resistance. These drugs are metformin and Actos. Metformin is the most popular oral medication for diabetes treatment in the U.S. Actos has been available for about 10 years but due to recent negative publicity about an unproven risk of bladder cancer, its popularity is declining. Neither drug is approved by the FDA for treatment of PCOS but multiple studies confirm the clinical and hormonal benefits of using these medications in this disorder. In 2011 research was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggesting that the generic cholesterol lowering drug, simvastatin may also show benefits similar to metformin for the treatment of PCOS.

In the late 1980’s, I along with Dr. Lester Gabrilove at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, published our research showing that an anti-fungal medication, ketoconazole, could reverse the hormonal, physical and metabolic problems associated with PCOS. Due to the potential toxicity of ketoconazole this therapy never gained wide spread acceptance. The manufacturer refused to fund additional studies to determine how to more effectively use this drug, due to the low profit potential and liability concerns.

This information is strictly for educational puroses. Due to high risk of toxicity of medical therapy in young women who can potentially become fertile under treatment for PCOS, no drug should be taken without the close supervision of a physician. The reader agrees to the Terms of Service of this website, metabolism.com

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Getting the Right Amount of Sleep Helps Prevent Diabetes


One aspect of lifestyle that is often overlooked is time spent sleeping. Getting adequate sleep is often sacrificed due to the demands of job and family. In the Sleep Heart Health Study over 1400 men and women were surveyed about their sleep habits and its relationship to diabetes and prediabetes. It was found that sleeping less than 6 hours per night was associated with increased risk of having diabetes. Interestingly, in those sleeping more than 9 hours per night there was an increased risk of diabetes and prediabetes.The authors of the study recommend trying to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night to minimize the chances of developing blood sugar problems. To learn more about ways of preventing diabetes see pages 90 to 98 in my ebook “Metabolism.com”

Maintaining ideal body weight with diet and exercise is also crucial for avoiding diabetes and prediabetes.In overweight adults for each2.2 pounds(1 kilogram) gained per year the risk of developing diabetes increases about 50% over the next ten years. By losing 2.2 pounds per year the risk of developing diabetes is reduced about33% for the next 10 years (J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000; 54(8):596-602).

Speak to your healthcare professional to find out if you are at risk for developing diabetes and to learn ways you can avoid it.

Gary Pepper M.D.

Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

The terms of service for metabolism.com apply to this and all posts; http://www.metabolism.com/2008/09/06/terms-conditions-service-agreement/

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Novartis Blood Pressure Medication Runs into Trouble


Novartis Blood Pressure Medication Runs into Trouble
by Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor, Metabolism.com

In 2007 a new type of blood pressure lowering medication was brought to market by Novartis Pharmaceutical Company. This medication by the brand name Tekturna (aliskiran) works by blocking hormones that make up a circuit from the kidney to the blood vessels know as the RAAS system. This mechanism is distinct from all other blood pressure lowering medications available. By working via a completely novel pathway to lower blood pressure doctors were given another potent weapon in the war on high blood pressure. A second medication, Valturna, which combines an established blood pressure medication with Tekturna, was released by Novartis to the public in 2009. These drugs have been extremely popular due to their effectiveness and apparent freedom from serious side effects.
A warning about this class of drug was issued by Novartis, 2 weeks ago when it was forced to end the Altitude drug study due to apparent unforeseen complications in patients using Tekturna and Valturna. The study found a small but significant increase in stroke in diabetics with renal disease who were using these drugs. Although the group of patients in the Altitude study are up to 12 times more likely to develop stroke or heart attack under normal circumstances, Novartis had no choice but to end the study and issue a warning to the health care community about limiting the use of these drugs.

In my own practice I have found Tekturna and Valturna to be extremely effective and well tolerated. A survey of my colleagues revealed the same findings. Diabetes and high blood pressure very commonly occur together and national guidelines stress the need for excellent blood pressure control for diabetics to help prevent heart, kidney and eye complications of this disease. For doctors treating diabetics who recognize these patients as particularly high risk, having to significantly cut back or eliminate the use of Tekturna and Valturna is creating major concerns. Within the past week I have had to counsel numerous individuals about these issues and the solution is far from easy. For instance, one man with diabetes and early kidney disease and heart disease, with borderline high blood pressure despite using 4 different types of blood pressure medication including Tekturna has to decide with me, which is the greatest risk, going off the medication resulting in a rise in his blood pressure or continuing a drug which may pose a risk of its own.

These discussions are going on in doctor’s offices throughout the country with no good solution in sight. The only certainty is a flood of ads by lawyers which begin, “Have you ever been on Tekturna or Valturna….”.

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SweetiePie Doesn’t Need a Shrink to Quit Smoking


Many members here at metabolism.com have shared their thoughts and experience on ways to stop smoking. There have been many who feel defeated because they can’t beat the weight gain that accompanies their efforts. SweetiePie has a clear message about how not to beat yourself up while achieving the goal of a smoke free (and healthier) life.

Here’s what SweetiePie has to say;

Hello:

55 Year old female here, 200 lbs, hypothyroid smoke free for 6 months. Feeling great about being smoke free and this time its permanent and for real.

I have quit smoking and relapsed so many times in my life. And dieting, on again and off again for 40 years. Pfffft…..This time what prompted me to go to the doctor and quit was that my heart feels heavy and hurts sometimes. Not angina yet, but scary and depressing. I’m fine, it turns out, but I definitely needed to quit smoking and still need to exercise more and lose weight . I am no expert in the weight loss department, having had limited success with that over the years. I can see from this interesting thread that I am not as weight conscious as most of you, but I still thought I’d share what my doctors told me because it may help and inspire you the way it did to me: When I tried to bring up the weight gain and the overweight with doctors heres what they said: CARDIOLOGIST told me I’d have to be about 100 lbs over my ideal weight of 145 for the weight to be as stressful and damaging on my heart and cardiovascular as SMOKING, GP #1 told me the key was, instead of focusing on an ideal weight and size, was to focus on preventing DIABETES through NONSMOKING, AND EXERCISE just as important as wholesome diet, and GP #2 (I moved and needed a new doctor for my thyroid perscription) told me, after my bloodwork tested all ok, “why don’t you just forget about losing weight for a little while and focus on quitting SMOKING? Well, I took all of that advice, and this time, it worked! I’ve really kicked the smoking habit and finally found freedom from that deadly addiction. The “permission” from doctors to stop beating myself up about my weight freed me up mentally to do what I needed to do (giving myself plenty of rewards, including food treats and being lazy treats!) in order to become smoke free and never going back! I am ready now to step up to exercise and weight loss this year with the same strategy: Increased exercise first, food modification instead of deprivation. The reason for my post is to say stick with it but your QUIT is SO IMPORTANT – don’t ever let your desire to be thinner or to get back down to an ideal outweigh your resolve to stay SMOKE FREE. SMOKING is the singlemost damaging behavior -don’t lose sight of that! Never take another puff! Oh, btw I gained about 5% while quitting and my first goal is to go back down 5%.

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What’s Inside My Ebook, Metabolism.com?


My ebook Metabolism.com is now available; I think you will find it a great resource for many of the common problems members have asked me about over the past 15 years. Buy it now and use it for years to come. Don’t forget to check out the Weight Loss and Weight Gain Programs included for free!

Chapter 1: What Is Metabolism? 9

Turning Food into Energy 10
The Importance of Hormones 11
Role of Metabolism in Weight Loss or Gain 14
Is My Metabolism Healthy? 16

Chapter 2: What Makes Your Metabolism Fast or Slow? 17

The Role of the Thyroid 22

Chapter 3: How to Increase or Decrease Metabolism 25

Problems with Losing Weight 25
Problems with Gaining Weight 34
A Pleasurable Exercise Routine is a Must 39

Chapter 4: Fact vs. Fiction—Smoking and Weight Loss 41

Chapter 5: Thyroid Treatment 47

How Are T3 and T4 Regulated? 48
Types of Thyroid Diseases 49
Hyper- and Hypothyroidism 49
Thyroid Nodules 51
Is Your Thyroid Nodule Hot? 53
Thyroid Treatments 54
Using Thyroid Function Tests To Diagnose Disease 56
Hyperthyroidism Treatments 57
Hypothyroidism Treatments 58
T3 Plus T4 Combination Therapy 59
How to Talk to Your Endocrinologist 66
The Recent Shortage of Armour Thyroid 67

Chapter 6: Diabetes Treatment 73

The Bad News—Major Stumbles in the Treatment of Diabetes 74
The Call for Tight Glycemic Control 74
2010 Diabetes Treatment Guidelines Lack Credibility 76
Setbacks in Diabetes Drug Development 81
The Failure of Inhaled Insulin 86
Dangerous Commercial Weight Loss Programs 87
Perhaps the Biggest Stumble of Th em All 89
The Good News—What Really Works 90
Diet and Exercise 90
Weight Loss Surgery 94
Incretins 95

Chapter 7: Hormone Treatments 99

Hormone Replacement Therapy—Estrogen 101
Heart Health 101
Breast Cancer 103
Benefits of Estrogen: Brain Function and Blood Pressure 104
Testosterone Replacement for Men 106
Testosterone Replacement Options 107
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement 108
Potential Risks 109
Human Growth Hormone in Adults 111
Diagnosing Growth Hormone Deficiency 113
Benefits of Growth Hormone Supplementation 113
Adrenal Fatigue: Fact or Fiction? 115

Conclusion 117

The Birth Of Metabolism.com 119
My Path Into Endocrinology 121
Recent Contributors On Metabolism.com 125

Appendix 1: Personal Nutrition Profile 127
Appendix 2: Ultimate Weight Gain Program 145
Appendix 3: Food Journal 165

Relevant Studies

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Patti Keeps on Running Despite Thyroid Cancer


Thyroid cancer is one of the most common cancers of young adults. Many of these cancers have no symptoms until a routine exam reveals a lump in the neck. This was the case with Patti who shares her upbeat experience with us. The good news about this type of cancer is that despite spread to lymph nodes (metastasized) it is still very curable. So, if you notice an unexplained neck lump don’t hesitate to have it evaluated by an endocrinologist or other knowledgeable physician.

Here is what Patti has to say about her thyroid cancer experience;

I found a lump in my throat in August of this year. I am one of the few (about 10%) who tested positive for Thyroid cancer. I also had cancer in 4 of the lymph nodes of my neck. I am a competitive athlete (for fun not for a living) and I worried what would happen. I had surgery in September and although the last 4 months have been very hard on me, I am happy to report I am running, swimming and cycling again. The cancer is completely gone based on my body scan and negative bloodwork.

Most likely you do NOT have cancer. But you can’t roll the dice and not know. And if you do, you can and will get through it and go on to live a wonderful life. It takes work and perseverance to be healthy but it is worth it. 🙂

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Margie Reports Her Success with Armour Thyroid


Hello, Everyone

I was diagnosed Hypothyroid 10 years ago, I have two sisters and several aunts with the same problem. I was prescribed synthroid and it was a Godsend for the first three years even though I was up and down, however I began to be more and more tired and just generally did not feel good, my dosage was up and down, finally doctor prescribed cytomel to go with it. still no good my bones hurt all the time especially my hip going down my leg and in the middle of my upper back, my beautiful teeth damaged. I finally told my Doctor to either give me the Armour or I was going to find another Doctor who would, He did and shazamm all symptoms disappeared, I feel great Like before I ever had this problem, I Thank God for Armour, and I also avoid flouride, chlorine

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Find Out What’s New for Treatment of Hot Flashes


With menopause comes the onset of hot flashes. These are the result of the drop in estrogen in the blood. Replacing estrogen is the most effective way of eliminating hot flashes but because of the health risks, taking estrogen replacement is an unacceptable option for many women. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reports on the use of other prescription drugs that can alleviate hot flashes. Watch my video on the subject for a more in depth discussion.

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HCG is a Hairy Hormone



By Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor, Metabolism.com
In the first article in this series, The HCG-Cancer Connection, I explained how HCG is made by some types of cancer and can serve as a marker for cancer activity. Now I want to explore another effect of HCG, the stimulation of male hormone (testosterone) production.
Just to review, there is no evidence that HCG will cause cancer although conceivably certain cancer responsive tumors may grow faster due to its effect to increase estrogen and testosterone. Every woman who has had a normal pregnancy has been exposed to high HCG levels for many months so if it did cause cancer that effect would be very obvious.
What concerns me is how HCG can influence the normal ovary and its hormone metabolism. HCG is a promiscuous hormone. It will hook up with different hormone “receptors” and masquerade as these other hormones. In the previous article I explained how at very high levels HCG can stimulate the thyroid to make thyroid hormone resulting in hyperthyroidism. Another hormone effect of HCG is to mimic LH (leutinizing hormone) which turns on the production of the sex hormones by the testicle in men and ovary in woman. Surprisingly the normal ovary makes testosterone which it then converts to estrogen. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) from the pituitary helps the ovary change testosterone to estrogen. What happens when the ovary gets a lot of LH but not FSH? This is the situation when a woman gets HCG. Testosterone levels will rise more than estrogen levels. Research shows that after a single HCG injection a rise of 20% in testosterone levels occurs in normal women, confirming this theory. During pregnancy with HCG pumping in the blood from the placenta, testosterone levels can double, resulting in acne, oily skin and (in some women) an increase in sex drive. The situation would be far worse for a pregnant woman if the placenta wasn’t also pumping out 100 times the normal amount of estrogen to counteract all the male hormones.
So why should women care if HCG makes their testosterone levels go up? Acne, oily skin and horniness are one thing but there are other effects which might be less acceptable. Testosterone is a mischievous hormone. While it causes hair growth where you don’t want it, it causes hair loss in places you want to keep it. Testosterone stimulates hair growth on the face, chest, back and abdomen. At the same time it causes hair loss from the scalp particularly at the temples and crown. This is referred to as male pattern baldness. Other effects of testosterone in women are the growth of the clitoris, known as clitoromegaly. A clitoris the size of a man’s thumb has been described in a woman due to excess testosterone exposure. Generally this degree of clitoromegaly is seen only in more extreme cases. So you may want to think twice before starting an HCG diet unless looking like Bruce Willis is your thing.
In the final installment on the hazards of HCG I will focus on other possible nasty hormone effects of HCG such as fibroids, infertility and bulging muscles.

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