is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands.
Among other things, DHEA is the precursor of as many as 50 other
hormones made by the body. The body’s supply of DHEA varies
throughout adult life, peaking at around 25 and decreasing
gradually until around age 70. The amount of DHEA in the body is
thought to directly affect the amount of usable estrogen and
been used in treating a wide variety of illnesses and adverse
conditions. Most recently, research has focused on its
anti-aging effects. Much of the recent research suggests that by
maintaining higher levels of DHEA as we age, we can divert or
postpone many of the effects of aging. Current research being
conducted and underwritten by the National Cancer Institute, the
National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging,
and the American Cancer Society is investigating DHEA as a
potential treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, depression,
Epstein-Barr virus, herpes, lupus and other autoimmune diseases,
menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, and even AIDS.
the most abundant hormone in the human body. It serves as a
precursor to all the other important adrenal hormones. In other
words, it is one of the main building blocks of testosterone,
progesterone, estrogen and cortisol. It is synthesized by the
body from cholesterol, and is at its peak in the body between
the ages of 20 and 25. By the time an adult reaches age 70,
their body produces approximately 70% less DHEA than it did at
of DHEA is only vaguely understood, and a great deal of research
has been undertaken and is underway to attempt to understand it
more clearly. The preliminary findings suggest that maintaining
DHEA levels at close to peak might reduce the incidence of many
age related diseases and conditions. Because DHEA is such a
basic building block, its reduction opens the door to a
multitude of illnesses and conditions in virtually every system
in the body. In fact, research conducted on animals has shown
that subjects given DHEA supplements live up to 50% longer than
those in a control group.
research has not yet been duplicated using human subjects, but
other studies have shown suggestive results. For instance, in a
study that tracked 242 men between the ages of 50 and 79, Dr.
Elizabeth Barrett-Connor at the University of California, San
Diego found a correlation between levels of DHEA and death from
age-related diseases. In her study, the men who survived had
notably higher levels of DHEA in their blood throughout the
Benefits of DHEA:
the conditions that DHEA has been used to treat or is being
studied as a treatment for are:
study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism
showed that those taking DHEA supplements in a controlled study
reported more energy, better sleep and higher ability to handle
stress than those taking a placebo.
conducted at the University of California, San Diego by Dr.
Samuel Yen showed marked improvement in many immune system
parameters in men who were given a DHEA supplement for at least
are a number of studies that suggest DHEA’s role in maintaining
heart health aside from the research conducted by Dr.
Barrett-Conner. In study after study, higher levels of DHEA were
linked with decreased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the
arteries). In fact, DHEA levels have been shown to be a more
accurate predictor of heart attack risk than cholesterol.
preliminary results suggest that DHEA may help prevent cancer.
Studies of women with breast cancer show lower than normal
levels of DHEA in their bodies, though it’s still uncertain
whether that’s a cause or a result. Because of DHEA’s
antioxidant properties, though, there’s good reason to believe
that DHEA may have positive effects on cancer prevention.
Japanese study, researchers found a correlation between levels
of DHEA in women over 50 and bone density. This, in and of
itself, could be coincidental, but there are also animal studies
that show increased mineralization in animals with osteoporosis
when they are given DHEA supplements. Human studies are underway
to study the effect in humans.
of DHEA’s antioxidant and immune system enhancing properties,
scientists are study its effects on Alzheimer’s disease and
other brain disorders. They’ve discovered that DHEA
supplementation can improve symptoms of amnesia, among other
between DHEA and depression is one of the most clearly
established. There are a number of studies that note improved
mood and functioning in depressed older adults when they take
Researchers at Stanford University gave DHEA to 57 women in
varying stages of Lupus erythomatosus. Two thirds of the women
reported improvement of symptoms including joint pain,
headaches, rashes and fatigue. The FDA is supporting clinical
trials to evaluate DHEA as an alternative to traditional
treatment for lupus.
Side Effects of DHEA
doses, DHEA has occasionally been reported to cause acne,
excessive hair growth, irritability and aggressiveness,
insomnia, fatigue and low energy. Far more rarely, DHEA may
cause headaches, nervousness, deepening of the voice and
menstrual irregularities. If you experience any of these side
effects, consult a doctor to have the dosage adjusted.
is still out on DHEA but a mounting volume of evidence points to
the fact that supplementation with DHEA can provide substantial
protection against many age-related diseases. Because of the
number of studies that have proven its beneficial effects, and
because the side effects of DHEA when taken properly are so few,
the medical community is looking to the hormone as a possible
treatment for disorders in every system in the body.