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DHEA Dehydroepiandrosterone



Supplementation of DHEA this synthesized hormone may have some benefits for those approaching middle age and beyond.

In recent months, DHEA has popped up on retailers' shelves like dandelions on your lawn in April.

Dehydroepiandrosterone its full name, has been touted sensationally as the fountain of youth.

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Although there is no such thing as a magic pill to instantly restore youth, researchers, through studies, have ascribed certain restorative properties to DHEA. Some observers believe that if you are above 30, supplementation of this hormone, which the body begins to drop production of after age 20 or so, can help maintain an overall sense of vigor, help the body better deal with various stresses, and perhaps even lower some cholesterol levels and provide support for the prevention of certain disease states.

DHEA is rapidly becoming known as the anti-aging miracle of the 20th Century, writes Beth M. Ley in her book, DHEA: Unlocking the Secrets to the Fountain of Youth

It reaches its highest concentration during puberty and declines as the body ages. It is necessary for at least 18 different steroidal hormones associated with youth, including estrogen, progesterone, cortisone, and testosterone. Levels of all these hormones decline with age.

Studies have demonstrated that dehydroepiandrosterone converts or stimulates production of cortisone, testosterone, progesterone and estrogens, along with other steroid hormones, as the body requires them.

In an article entitled, "DHEA: Youth in a Bottle?" in the October, 1996 issue of "Let's Live", author Ray Sahelian, M.D., writes that "the theory behind supplementing with DHEA is that after about age 30, our bodies naturally produce less of this hormone. The expectation is that by supplementing the body's low level of this hormone, we will be able to slow down symptoms of aging and prevent degenerative disease. Anecdotal evidence suggests other benefits, including more energy and an increased sex drive.

And, according to "Nutrition News", Vol. XX, No. 2, 1996 author Siri Khalsa points out that scientific research has demonstrated that DHEA supplementation can bring relief for an array of disease states including multiple sclerosis, thyroid problems, lupus, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, herpes infections, allergies, stress, depression, menopause and premenstrual syndrome. It has also been used for building lean muscle tissue, and has exerted beneficial effects on collagen and skin integrity.

DHEA is the most abundant hormone produced by the adrenal glands, Sahelian states in his book "DHEA: A Practical Guide". The adrenal glands, which are located just above the kidneys, produce more than 150 substances. Each gland has a medulla, which is the inner core, and the cortex, which is an outer sheath.

"After DHEA is made, it goes into the bloodstream, and from then on it travels all over the body and goes into our cells, where it is converted into male hormones, known as androgens, or female hormones, known as estrogens.

According to Sahelian, there are several proposed mechanisms whereby DHEA exerts its storied anti-aging effects. It "turns on the 'youth' genes in our DNA that may be shut off by low levels of DHEA in old age; decreases the incidence of osteoporosis; decreases the rate of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and acting as a blood thinner; and balances DHEA/cortisol ratios.

He cautions that studies of the effects of DHEA supplementation on aging have been performed only on rodents; therefore, similar effects on humans are unknown.

The DHEA supplements available to you are produced by dietary supplement manufacturers. Typically, notes Sahelian, the manufactures will extract a sterol substance known as diosgenin from wild yams. "After a few side chains have been cleaved from diosgenin in the laboratory, DHEA is produced."

As far as dosages are concerned, Ley points out that the best DHEA dosages vary from individual to individual. She says it's important to take into account such factors as age and other biological influences. Dosages can range anywhere from 5 to 500 mg. Many people who have studied DHEA think it is advisable to take a blood test to determine your DHEA level before you begin supplementation, and to have the levels checked periodically, as advised by your health-care practitioner.

"Anti-aging doses would be quite low," Ley writes, "taking only enough to raise the levels to [that of] a normal 20-year-old, which would be approximately 31 mg in men, 19 mg in women." For long-term preventative measures, DHEA supplementation is typically between 5 and 50 mg daily. Therapeutic doses, however, are more sizable, commencing at about 200 mg daily.

For some people, Ley says, possible side effects that indicate that DHEA dosages are too high include acne flare-ups, unwanted hair growth, irritability and rapid heart beat.

There is a lot to be aware of before you begin taking DHEA. Ask your health product retailer for further literature written on Dehydroepiandrosterone before you purchase some.

DHEA: Unlocking the Secrets to the Fountain of Youth by Beth M. Ley
DHEA: A Practical Guide by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
The Super-Hormone Promise by William Regelson, M.D. and Carol Coman
Let's Live, October, 1996
Nutrition News, Vol. XX, No. 2, 1996