Listen to Michael explain DHEA benefits and more.
A growing body of research suggests that DHEA can prevent or reverse the diseases that anti-aging experts have identified as the most prominent markers of accelerated aging: atherosclerosis (hardening and clogging of the arteries), cancer, diabetes, and reduced immunity. Moreover, mounting evidence indicates that the level of DHEA in a person's blood is an excellent predictor not only of these age-related health problems but also of aging itself. "DHEA is undeniably one of the most crucial predictive factors in diagnosing aging-related diseases," according to Ronald Klatz, D.O., president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.
There is no question that DHEA extends the life spans of animals and holds promise as a defense against the degenerative diseases of aging. But can the hormone actually extend human life span?
Research is underway, underwritten by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, and the American Cancer Society. These and other major agencies are 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.
What can the average healthy person expect from DHEA? Although everyone's experience differs, people report that they have more energy, handle stress more easily, think more clearly, and generally feel better. Other benefits include enhanced immunity (stronger resistance to colds, flu, and the like) and lower cholesterol.
What is DHEA?
DHEA is a hormone that is naturally made by the human body. It can be made in the laboratory from chemicals found in wild yam and soy. However, the human body cannot make DHEA from these chemicals, so simply eating wild yam or soy will not increase DHEA levels. Don’t be misled by wild yam and soy products labeled as “natural DHEA.”
DHEA is used for slowing or reversing aging, improving thinking skills in older people, and slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
Your adrenal glands are responsible for manufacturing DHEA. Actually, the cascade of adrenal hormones starts with cholesterol, from which the brain hormone pregnenolone is made. Pregnenolone is then transformed into DHEA. And DHEA serves as the raw material from which all other important adrenal hormones--including the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol--are synthesized.
DHEA is the most abundant hormone in your body. But production peaks at around age 20. From then on, your DHEA level decreases with age. By the time you reach 40, your body makes about half as much DHEA as it used to. By 65, output drops to 10 to 20 percent of optimum; by age 80, it plummets to less than 5 percent of optimum.
- Because DHEA has such broad-spectrum effects, declining production makes itself known in every system, every organ, and every tissue of your body. The immune system is especially sensitive to diminishing DHEA output, opening the door not just to viruses, bacteria, and other microbes but also to free radicals and the Pandora's box of degenerative diseases they cause.
A host of studies suggest that the lower a person's level of DHEA, the greater his risk of death from age-related disease.
Research has pinpointed low DHEA levels as a marker for many degenerative diseases and accelerated aging. The hormone has been implicated as a contributing factor in a host of health problems, including Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune disease and other immunological disorders, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, memory problems, obesity, osteoporosis, and stress disorders.
What's more, the collective indirect evidence from more than 5,000 published studies overwhelmingly supports DHEA's anti-aging role. Scientists now have proof that DHEA: * Enhances immunity
- Decreases the risk of heart disease
- Defends against some cancers
- Improves blood sugar control, decreasing the risk of diabetes
- Reverses the age-accelerating effects of the stress hormone cortisol
- Prevents and reverses osteoporosis
How could any substance that protects us from virtually every major degenerative disease not protect us from aging as well?
Living Better Than Ever
Athletes and other people use DHEA to increase muscle mass, strength, and energy. But DHEA use is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
DHEA is also used by men for erectile dysfunction (ED), and by healthy women and women who have low levels of certain hormones to improve well-being and sexuality.
Some people try DHEA to treat systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), weak bones (osteoporosis), multiple sclerosis (MS), low levels of steroid hormones (Addison’s disease), depression, schizophrenia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. It is also used for preventing heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
DHEA is used for weight loss, for decreasing the symptoms of menopause, and for boosting the immune system.
People with HIV sometimes use DHEA to ease depression and fatigue.
Women who have passed menopause sometimes use DHEA inside the vagina for strengthening the walls of the vagina and for increasing bone mineral density.
DHEA is being investigated and may eventually be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a prescription drug for treating systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and improving bone mineral density in women with lupus who are taking steroid drugs for treatment. The FDA is still studying the pharmaceutical company’s application for approval.
DHEA's power to invigorate the immune system is closely linked to its potential to fight aging. Remember, heightened immunity translates directly into protection against oxidation, which in turn translates directly into protection against degenerative disease. So anything that strengthens your immune system also has the capacity to lengthen life. Immune deterioration with age is accompanied by increased incidence of atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, cancer, cataracts, and infections--all evidence of accelerated aging.
Perhaps most significant of all, DHEA increases production of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a hormone type molecule that is used to measure levels of another potent anti-aging compound called human growth hormone.
Stopping Stress in Its Tracks
DHEA protects your body from the hormone cortisol and the stress that triggers its production. Like DHEA, cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands. If oversecreted, cortisol injures your body's tissues. When you're under stress, your adrenal glands release large amounts of cortisol. People under chronic stress have high cortisol levels (unless their adrenal glands have already burned out, in which case their cortisol levels are low). The presence of too much cortisol leads to age-accelerating damage. As stress accumulates over decades, cortisol levels tend to rise as well. Many people over age 40 have elevated cortisol.
Mending a Broken Heart
Research has shown that depleted DHEA is a more accurate predictor of heart attack than elevated cholesterol. DHEA levels were significantly lower in men who died of heart attacks than in men who were healthy.
That's not all. In people undergoing angioplasty (a procedure in which a balloon is used to open a clogged blood vessel), DHEA reduced the rate of restenosis--a treated vessel closes off again--from 68 percent to 28 percent. In healthy males given a clot-promoting substance (arachidonic acid, found in abundance in meat), DHEA blocked an increase in clotting.
Can DHEA prevent cancer? While scientists don't yet know for certain, the early reports are encouraging.
Low DHEA predicts breast cancer more accurately than any other known marker. Women with breast cancer consistently have lower-than-normal DHEA readings. DHEA may help protect against breast cancer by inhibiting glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, an enzyme required for cancer growth. Also, because DHEA has antioxidant properties, the hormone probably defends against free radical cancer initiators.
Good to Your Bones
Among the anti-aging hormones, DHEA stands out as a multitalented star with amazing ways of outsmarting osteoporosis. DHEA is the only hormone that can both inhibit bone breakdown and stimulate bone formation. Plus, DHEA is a precursor to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, all of which prevent bone loss in their own rights.
Bone cells convert DHEA to estrone, a type of estrogen that in turn increases the activity of bone-making cells called osteoblasts. DHEA's transformation into estrone depends on the presence of vitamin D3. (Likewise, D3 requires DHEA to stimulate osteoblasts. It can't do the job alone.)
Medicine for the Mind
Don't be surprised if, in the next few years, you start seeing reports that DHEA is being used to treat Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative brain diseases. (You can say you read it here first.) While DHEA is no cure for Alzheimer's, strong evidence exists that the hormone is essential for maintaining healthy brain cells.
The Lupus Link
Aware of DHEA's immune-enhancing effects, researchers at Stanford University gave DHEA to 57 women with lupus. About two-thirds of the women reported some alleviation of their symptoms, including reduced frequency and severity of joint pain, headaches, rashes, and fatigue. Many also reported better exercise tolerance and improved concentration. Impressed with these findings, the Food and Drug Administration is supporting clinical trials to evaluate DHEA's efficacy as an alternative to conventional lupus therapy.
DHEA replacement therapy offers powerful health benefits and is virtually risk-free. People have taken doses as high as 1,600 milligrams daily for a month with no adverse reactions.
The recommended daily dose range is 10 to 50 milligrams for women, 25 to 100 milligrams for men. (Women need less DHEA than men.) Start women and men--at 25 milligrams once or twice daily.
Who shouldn't take DHEA? People under age 35 and people who have normal DHEA levels ("normal" being the level typical of a 29-year-old). They simply don't need it.
Men with prostate cancer and women with reproductive cancers should consult their doctors before taking DHEA, even though no adverse effects have been reported.
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