DHEA exploded onto the national scene barely three years ago when the national news media proclaimed the stunning results of current research from The New York Academy of Sciences. Older men participating in these studies showed dramatic improvement in their ratio of lean mass to body fat. Other benefits displayed included: enhanced immune system, more youthful skin texture, increased energy and cognitive function, enhanced libido (dramatically for women), less stress, and more restful sleep. The media, including Vanity Fair, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and CBS Morning News, touted DHEA the “youth hormone.”
DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is the most prevalent hormone in the human body. It circulates in the bloodstream in quantities thousands of times greater than either estrogen or testosterone. Your body’s production of DHEA reaches its peak between the ages of 20 and 30 but then rapidly declines. By the age of 80, production of this hormone is at only 5% of peak. Laboratory and clinical evidence suggests this dramatic decrease in DHEA may have a significant impact on numerous degenerative and age-related diseases. Even more studies show the supplementation of DHEA can increase energy and enhance the immune system, as well as prevent obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Fountain of Youth
The rumors of DHEA being a “fountain of youth” are not exaggerated. A twelve year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996 reported that of the 242 men aged 50-79 studied: “A 100 microgram per deciliter increase in DHEA sulfate concentration corresponded with a 48% reduction in mortality due to cardiovascular disease and a 36% reduction in mortality for any reason. The natural level of DHEA sulfate was measured and those individuals with higher DHEA sulfate levels lived longer and had much lower risk of heart disease.”
More age-related research has been performed on DHEA’s affect on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. C. R. Merrill from the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics found that DHEA levels in a group of Alzheimer’s patients was 48% lower than the control group. Dr. Ward Dean states in his book, Smart Drugs, that “DHEA protects brain cells from Alzheimer’s disease and other senility-associated degenerative conditions. Nerve degeneration occurs most readily under low DHEA conditions. Brain tissue normally contains 6.5 times more DHEA than is found in the bloodstream in order to protect the brain from aging and damage.”
The potential for DHEA as a longevity aide is incredible. Another age-related research project discovered that DHEA could protect human bones from deterioration. Dr. Alan Gaby, in his book Reversing Osteoporosis, cites a strong association between low DHEA levels and bone loss in post-menopausal women.
Another important use of DHEA is in the prevention of cancer. A study in Guernsey, UK showed women destined to develop breast cancer had low DHEA levels up to nine years previous. Doctors at the Medical College of Virginia showed lower DHEA levels were associated with build up of atherosclerotic plaque and that higher insulin levels from the ingestion of simple carbohydrate caused a reduction of DHEA levels in the body.
Tonita d’Raye, in the booklet The Hormone From Heaven writes, “DHEA has been found to improve function and to have significant anti-cancer and anti-tumor effects.” A 22-year study on five thousand apparently healthy women showed that women who developed breast cancer had subnormal DHEA levels. Conversely, 100% of the women with higher than average levels of DHEA remained cancer free. Additional studies report DHEA to have a cancer fighting effect on cancers of the colon, liver, thyroid, and skin.
Heart Disease & Obesity
When DHEA levels decrease, the enzyme system accelerates, increasing production of both fatty acids and cholesterol. This promotes obesity and arteriosclerosis. In one study at Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine, rabbits with severe hardening of the arteries had an almost 50% reduction of arterial plaque when treated with DHEA. Elizabeth Barret Conner, M.D., from the University of California School of Medicine, found a 48% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 35% reduction in mortality from any cause. She correlated this to increases in DHEA sulfate blood levels found in a group of men over 50 she tracked for 12 years. Dr. Conner concluded that “DHEA seems to protect people against early death from any cause.”
Another study at Temple University’s School of Medicine found that elevated levels of DHEA caused weight loss without a change in appetite. Dr. Schwartz, a biochemist at the university, says, “DHEA is a very effective anti-obesity agent.” This is not weight loss due the breakdown of lean muscle tissue or fluid loss. Increased DHEA appears to create a stabilizing effect on all body systems. It can help overweight people to lose fat and underweight people to gain weight. Calories convert to heat rather than get stored as fat. Simultaneously, DHEA helps the body to build lean muscle tissue. Dr. Vincent Glanpapa states in an article in Muscle Magazine, “DHEA has been demonstrated to be beneficial in increasing muscle size while reducing fat.”
This research is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of DHEA. The media’s praise of DHEA has only just begun once you consider that DHEA is still a relatively new product in the supplement market. Research being performed right now, across the world, will only help solidify DHEA’s place as a necessary supplement for everyone serious about their health and longevity.