Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK: steroid user by Jerry Brainum

The 1960 presidential election was considered one of the closer elections in American history. Many historians say that the turning point came on September 26, 1960, with the advent of the first televised presidential debates. John F.Kennedy was the democratic candidate, a United States Senator from Massachusetts. Incumbent vice-president Richard Nixon represented the Republican party. Both men presented clear and cogent arguments and brought up important issues. If you went by content alone, you would have to declare a tie, with no clear winner. However, those debates turned the tide for Kennedy. It wasn't anything particular that he said, but rather how he looked that made the difference. Kennedy appeared tan and rested, while his opponent Nixon looked pale and sweaty; in fact, he was sick. Nixon had refused make-up, and the cameras caught every bead of sweat and bags under his eyes. In contrast, Kennedy seemed to present a picture of youthful vigor and energy. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Nixon was by far the healthier of the two candidates.
      Kennedy had more personal medical issues that any United States president, before or since. The extent of his health problems became apparent with the complete release of his medical history eleven years ago. What Kennedy was afflicted with falls under the broad medical term of autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome, type-2 (APS-2). What this refers to is a failure of several endocrine organs, or organs that release hormones, caused by  the body's immune system turning upon itself, and attacking those organs as if they were foreign disease organisms. The syndrome was initially described by Thomas Addison in 1849. The type-2 form that JFK had is characterized by a failure of his adrenal glands, along with a failure of the thyroid gland.
     Kennedy was known to suffer from Addison's disease, named after that same Dr.Thomas Addison, who first described it. With Addison's disease, the adrenal glands stop producing hormones. This aspect of Kennedy's health was kept secret for years, and the full disclosure only emerged with the publication of a book in 1976. There were signs of problems long before that, however. In September, 1947, JFK, then a U.S Congressman, collapsed while on a visit to England. A local doctor diagnosed Kennedy's illness as "adrenal crisis" and remarked to a friend of Kennedy "that young man doesn't have a year to live." Kennedy left for New York accompanied by a nurse, and was admitted to the Lahey clinic in Boston. The press was told that the reason for Kennedy's illness was a severe recurrence of the malaria he had contracted while serving in the Pacific during World War two.
    In reality, JFK was being treated at the Lahey Clinic by an endocrinologist, who gave JFK an early corticosteroid drug, namely desoxycorticosterone (DOCA). This was in pellet form, which was implanted in the skin of his thigh every three months. In 1950, oral cortisone became available, and Kennedy began ingesting 25 milligrams daily in addition to continuing the DOCA treatment. He had to do this because with the Addison's disease, he wasn't producing any cortisol, which is essential to life. He wasn't actually diagnosed with Addison's until  September, 1947. When he first ran for congress in 1945, JFK weighed only 150 pounds at a height of 6-foot, and as the campaign went on, he was descibed as appearing "tired, hollow-eyed, and anemic" by his staff workers. Despite this, JFK seemed indefatigable, and won the election. But the day prior to the election, he had marched in the annual Bunker Hill parade, and at the end of the 5-mile walk, he collapsed. One aid said that he looked "yellow and blue, like a man having a heart attack."
     Back in 1940, when he was only 23, JFK was given a medical examination by a doctor, who told JFK's father than his son had hypotension, or very low blood pressure. This was an early sign of his adrenal failure.Kennedy's celebrated tan was also a manifestation of his adrenal failure. It was hardly a"healthy tan."
    In 1954, as a U.S Senator, JFK had back surgery to correct long standing pain that may have been caused by long term use of steroids (not anabolic steroids), which can cause bone resorption and thus weaken spinal bones. The doctors who operated on him had to take special precautions because of his Addison's disease, since JFK's body was incapable of handling stress. He survived the surgery, which was written up in a medical journal--without identifying the patient.JFK still suffered from back pain the rest of his life, and was wearing a back brace on the day of his assassination.That brace, which allowed him to keep his upper body erect, may also have inadvertently led to his death in Dallas on November 22, 1963. JFK's erect body and lack of flexibility allowed the second bullet that smashed into his skull to efficiently find its target. This was the bullet that blew the back of his skull off and proved fatal. Had he been able to move more without the brace, the bullet might have missed, and JFK would have survived.  
    Kennedy's political opponents were aware of Kennedy's Addison disease, and tried to go public with the disclosure that JFK was in fact, a sick man. But his condition was covered up by Dr.Janet Travell, who later became the White House physician. In 1955, JFK was diagnosed as having hypothyroidism, or low thyroid output.During his presidencny, JFK took 25 micrograms of liothyronine, better known by its trade name of Cytomel, twice a day. Cytomel is a T3 thyroid drug, considered the fastest acting and most potent of thyroid medications.  The diagnosis of both adrenal and thyroid failure is indicative of APS-2. Again, this stems from the body producing an immune reaction that attacks the adrenal and thyroid glands. At Kennedy's autopsy,it was noted that his adrenal glands had atrophied to the point of non-existence, which is indicative of severe Addison's disease.  Half of those with APS-2 have relatives who also suffer from autoimmune disease. Kennedy's sister, Eunice, mother of Maria Schriver, also had Addison's disease, while Kennedy's son, JFK Jr, had Graves disease, which is characterized by excessive thyroid output, and is considered an autoimmune disease.
    Those who suffer from APS-2 show an incidence of hypergonadotropic hypogonadism of 4 to 9 percent. This could lead to infertility, which clearly wasn't the case with JFK, who sired four children, with two surviving infancy.However, the syndrome can also affect the gastrointestinal system, and JFK suffered from recurrent symptoms of intestinal cramping, diarrhea, and inability to gain weight for most of his life.
  A list of medications prescribed by Dr.Travell on October 12, 1961 for JFK consisted of the following: Vitamin C, 500 mgs, twice daily;hydrocortisone, 10 mgs daily;prednisone, 2.5 mgs, twice daily;methyltestosterone 10 mgs daily;  25 mcg twice daily of Cytomel for thyroid; fludrocortisone, 0.1 mgs daily;diphenoxylate HCL and Atropine (Lomitol), 2 tablets as needed to treat diarrhea. Kennedy used testosterone daily during his entire presidency. He usually used 10 mgs of the anabolic steroid, methyltestosterone, one of the only orally available anabolic steroids at that time, and sometimes boosted the dose to 25 milligrams. In 1962, his doctors put him on between 50 and 75 milligrams of testosterone aqueous suspension, an injection, for four days. He later began taking fluoxymesterone,another oral anabolic steroid available as Halotestin, at a dose of 5 to 10 milligrams.
   With Kennedy's autoimmune condition, it's possible that antibodies could attack the Leydig cells in the testes, where testosterone is synthesized. While JFK may have had this effect, it didn't destroy his fertility, as evidenced by his ability to produce children (with his wife's assistance). But the probable reason why Kennedy used testosterone preparations was to counter the catabolic effects on muscle produced by his necessary use of corticosteroid drugs, which are catabolic hormones, in that they produce muscle tissue loss. In addition, regular use of cortisol-based drugs can result in pituitary suppression of gonadal hormone output. In other words, using cortisol drugs can blunt the synthesis of testosterone in the body, necessitating an outside source of the hormone. Kennedy would often request higher doses of his testosterone or anabolic steroid drugs because they made him feel more alive and clear-headed, while reducing his ever-present feeling of fatigue. His inability to gain weight because of the Addisons also made testosterone drugs a useful option, since they allowed JFK to gain weight and improve his appearance. Before he used the drugs, he appeared gaunt and very skinny.He actually first started using testosterone when he ran for president in 1960, again to improve his appearance and sense of vigor, which it did.
    JFK also used vitamin B12 injections throughout his presidency. The APS-2 condition, because of adverse effects on the gastrointestinal system, often leads to a B12 deficiency, which JFK did have, hence the B12 injections.
    Just like a Hollywood facade, JFK wasn't the picture of youthful health and vigor that he appeared to be.But without his hormone treatments, including the corticosteroids he had to use to stay alive, and the testosterone preparations that made him look healthy despite his illness, history may well have not been the same.



©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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