The Pharmaceutical Rush to Block HSD
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown that too much cortisol can lead to a wide range of "modern" diseases, including anxiety, insomnia, depression, memory problems, fatigue, diabetes, muscle loss, osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer (immune suppression), and especially weight gain and obesity. No surprise there. Based on the latest research, however, these same NIH researchers have also suggested that the use of HSD inhibitors "could be useful in the treatment of these diseases, including cognitive dysfunction in elderly men and patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus." As the NIH researchers note, "the pharmaceutical industry is rigorously searching for, developing, and/or testing HSD inhibitors for the treatment of a host of human disorders such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, etc."
Reducing the activity of HSD is certainly a hot area of research within the pharmaceutical industry because such an effect would lead to decreased fat storage within abdominal fat cells (by reducing HSD activity within adipose tissue), as well as a better control of blood sugar and a lower risk of diabetes (by reducing HSD activity within liver cells).
Indeed, every major pharmaceutical company in the world is hard at work developing synthetic controllers of HSD, because they understand that slowing the activity of this enzyme may be the "Holy Grail" to stopping the epidemic of obesity and diabetes around the world. This epidemic is not just an American issue; it is perhaps the most important health concern in every industrialized country from Europe to Asia. In China, for example, there are already as many overweight people (more than sixty million) as there are in the United States. Of course, China's sixty million overweight people represent a much smaller percentage of its total population than the United States' sixty million overweight folks (roughly 7 percent in China, compared to about 66 percent in the United States). The point is that China's population of overweight people is growing rapidly, and it is already as big a "market" for the drug companies as that in the United States, which is generally considered the fattest land on the planet.
Reducing the body's fat storage via pharmaceutical inhibition of HSD is one of the most active areas of "Big Pharma" research and patent activity. Most of the major drug makers are getting in on the act, with Amgen (with Swedish biotech company Biovitrum), Pfizer, Merck, Hoffman/LaRoche, and Abbott Labs among the contenders to be the first to market with their synthetic HSD inhibitor. Because of the length of the drug-development process, don't expect to see any of these drugs at a pharmacy near you until sometime after 2010. Within the next five to ten years, however, most stress physiologists expect HSD inhibitors to become the biggest blockbuster drugs of all time because of their unmatched potential to be a breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes and obesity. If you can't wait until 2010 and beyond to do something about your HSD activity, then the next section, which covers some of the natural options for controlling HSD, may be for you.