A recent examination of patients taking acetaminophen (Tylenol Source)) for pain unexpectedly found that the common painkiller alters sex hormones. If taken during pregnancy it may cause male babies to be born with urogenital malformations. (
Acetaminophen (APAP) has been in use for over 50 years, but researchers still don’t know all the ways it works in the body.
The effect on one sex hormone was roughly equivalent to the effect of 35 years of aging, or the normal decrease in levels seen in menopause. Fortunately, the effect only lasts for 48 hours if no additional APAP is taken
Taking APAP every day for pain causes some hormones to become menopausal–regardless of age.
Acetaminophen also causes false highs, by a rather large margin, in people with continuous glucose monitors, according to another study reported in Diabetes Care. This obviously is a concern for the many diabetics who use continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), which is swiftly becoming the standard of care for Type 1 diabetics.
Blood Sugar Measurement Also Affected
For example, three patients in the study had blood glucose meter values less than 70 mg/dL with much higher CGM readings — 63 vs 138 mg/dL, 46 vs 175 mg/dL, and 51 vs 184 mg/dL.
In 10 patients, the CGM values read higher than 180 mg/dL, but the meter reading was over 100 mg/dL lower. The effect appears to be limited to CGM since finger stick glucometer readings were used as a control.
Newer blood sugar measurement technology under development will take this consequence into account. Until then people who use CGM need to be aware of the APAP effect.
The study that found the sex hormone effect with APAP also was able to shed light on how the painkiller works in the body. People who took acetaminophen had very low levels of neurosteroids made by the brain itself, such as pregnenolone sulfate and DHEAS [dehydroepiandrosterone]. The drug also works with three distinct metabolic pathways–one of them being the endocannabinoid system, which produces marijuana-like molecules.
This may explain the calming effects experienced by some individuals and acetaminophen’s use as a mild sedative in children. The uncertainty and growing number of proposed mechanisms raise the possibility that there are further actions involving central nervous system (CNS) cell receptors. (Source)
The findings are significant because they show how the body is impacted by seemingly innocuous everyday medications. There are hundreds of other drugs that no one has done this research for.