Produced by the adrenal glands, DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is mildly androgenic. A precursor to other adrenal hormones, it diminishes with age and promotes longevity in animals. It is one of the best biochemical bio-markers of chronological age.
DHEA has demonstrated protective effects for various cancers and is often effective for age-related issues such as sharper memory, enhanced immune function, energy, smooth skin, tired muscles, cardiovascular health, accelerated weight loss, and it may increase HDL.
DHEA can be purchased in health food stores.
The decline in DHEA levels appears to be a factor in age-related bone loss. In one important study, bone mineral density was measured at the lumbar spine, hip, and radius in 105 women, aged 45-69. Fifty women had normal measurements, whereas 55 had low bone density. The average serum DHEA-S level was 60% lower in the women with low bone density than in those with normal bones. Women with low DHEA values were 40 times more likely to have osteoporosis than were women with normal DHEA levels. In contrast, there was no relationship between estrogen levels and bone density. [Szathmari, M, et al. Osteoporosis Int 1994:4: pp.84-88]
William Regelson, MD, of the Medical College of Virginia, in his book The Superhormone Promise, calls DHEA "the superstar of super hormones" and "one of the most powerful tools" available for enhancing and extending life.
Low blood levels of the hormone DHEA have been associated with more severe symptoms in people with SLE. Preliminary trials have suggested that 50 to 200mg per day DHEA improved symptoms in people with SLE. One double-blind trial of women with mild to moderate SLE found that 200mg of DHEA per day improved symptoms and allowed a greater decrease in prednisone use, but a similar trial in women with severe SLE found only insignificant benefits.
Although there is some conflicting evidence, many researchers conclude that maintaining normal levels of DHEA provides some protection against atherosclerosis.
DHEA levels have been found to be low in women with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition frequently associated with osteoporosis. In a study of 49 postmenopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis, DHEA levels (measured as DHEA-S) were significantly lower than in healthy controls. [Gaby, AR. Holistic Medicine. Spring, 1993: p.22]
Insulin levels may play a significant role in determining how much DHEA is metabolized. Studies have discovered that low levels of DHEA may be related to an excess of insulin. What this suggests is that anyone suffering from hypoglycemia or excess insulin may be prone to converting nutrients to fat due to depressed DHEA levels.
The optimal dosage range for DHEA varies considerably between individuals. Men and women should consider taking a total of 15 to 75mg per day in one to three divided doses. Many human studies use a daily dose of 50mg. DHEA can be taken with or without food, though some believe that fat helps DHEA to assimilate better. DHEA can be taken in a cream form along with other hormones.
Mainly because DHEA levels naturally decrease with age, this hormone has been widely used as a kind of "fountain of youth". However, there is no real evidence that it is helpful against aging in general. Seven studies have found that DHEA supplementation does not improve mood or increase the general sense of well-being in older individuals. In addition, although some reports suggest that declining DHEA levels cause impaired mental function in the elderly, large studies have not found a connection between the two.
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