[New Study] Could Reliance on Serum Tests to Determine Hormone Levels Lead to Progesterone Overdose?

New study published in the November 2013 issue of Menopause shows saliva and capillary blood tests suggest natural progesterone absorption is much greater than previously thought.

The choice of body fluids in which progesterone levels are measured following topical progesterone delivery can have an impact on the dosage of progesterone women receive for treating postmenopausal symptoms. This is the conclusion of a study published in Menopause, the Journal of the North American Menopause Society.

Women are commonly prescribed progestogens to help alleviate menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, as well as to preserve bone health. Synthetic progestogens can have adverse effects, such as reversal of some of the benefits of estrogen on cardiovascular and brain health, and increases in breast cancer risk. For these reasons, many women choose natural progesterone formulations, including creams and gels. However, controversy exists in the medical community as to the effectiveness of these formulations because topical progesterone raises serum progesterone levels very little.

The randomized study investigated the distribution of progesterone in different body fluids after application of cream and gel formulations, which are applied to and absorbed through the skin. Postmenopausal women received 80mg of cream and gel progesterone during 14-day treatment periods. After application on the last day of treatment, samples were taken of saliva, blood drawn from the arm (venous blood) and from the fingertip (capillary blood). While progesterone levels in venous whole blood and serum rose only slightly in multiple samples taken over the following 24 hours, levels in saliva and capillary blood were dramatically higher, over this same 24-hour time course, averaging as much as 100 times higher in capillary blood than serum.

"Reliance on the standard serum test for monitoring progesterone distribution could lead to underestimating absorption levels, and then, consequently, to prescribing an overdose of progesterone," said biochemistry researcher David T. Zava, Ph.D., one of the authors of the study and an expert in hormone testing. "Both saliva and capillary blood tests provide a more accurate assessment of topical progesterone absorption and tissue uptake than a typical serum test."

Like all bioidentical hormones, both deficient and excessive levels of progesterone can produce adverse side effects. Underestimation of tissue hormone uptake following topical hormone use can potentially lead to the impression that the hormone was poorly absorbed and lead to overdosing. A reliable test that more accurately reflects absorption and tissue levels of progesterone is important for preventing overdosing and keeping it within optimal physiological range. Finding the right balance of hormone is key to women enjoying optimal health and well-being.

For more information on saliva and hormone testing, visit www.zrtlab.com

Contact: Lissa Gienty
Phone: 503.597.1845
E-mail: lmgienty@zrtlab.com

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