Have you ever wondered if your doctor is up on the latest in medicine?
I have, and for good reason. When I wrote my book on menopause (www.RideThePinkElephant.com), I got a first hand glimpse at the huge gap between scientific research (what happens in a laboratory) and clinical medicine (what happens between doctors and patients).
It’s as though medicine is ten years behind.
Recently, I experienced this first-hand when I went to a talk being given by Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton about the estrogen and the female brain.
Dr. Brinton is R. Peter Vanderveen Endowed Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development, Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. In 2005 she was listed on the US News and World Report’s 10 Best Minds. It’s safe to say, she’s someone worth listening to.
Dr. Brinton is working on understanding why 68% of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are women. At her talk, she presented an overview of her scientific findings, the gist of which I’ve never heard coming out of a doctor’s mouth.
For example, Dr. Brinton’s lab is showing healthy female brain cells (neurons) are protected from damage by estrogen. Estrogen also appears to trigger formation of new cells in the brain’s memory center (hippocampus) and its decision-making center (pre-frontal cortex).
In her paper (Trends In Neurosciences, Vol.31 No.10, 2008), she writes that findings predict, “estrogen therapy, if initiated at the time of peri- to menopause, when neurological health is not yet compromised, will be of benefit, as manifested as reduced risk for age-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
Talk to most medical doctors these days, however, and they’re busy steering peri- and menopausal women away from estrogen based mostly on the negative findings of one study (the Women’s Health Initiative). This is a study that is now fairly well accepted as having been misinterpreted.