DHEA is a type of hormone that is produced in the adrenal gland. It is a precursor to the male and female sex hormones. DHEA is also synthesized and used in the brain. The body uses DHEA as a way to produce both testosterone and estrogen and other neural chemicals needed for brain function.
DHEA is produced by the body and the production of this hormone rises until a person reaches their twenties when their levels peak. The levels of DHEA then start to drop once a person reaches the age of 30. This has led to a lot of research on DHEA’s effect on aging. As we age, we lose muscle mass, bone density, and our immune systems start to decline. The decline of all three of these correlates to the decline of the amount of DHEA in the blood stream. Researchers have done studies to see if supplementing the body with DHEA would reverse the effects of aging in these areas. A two year study was done by the Mayo Clinic to see how this supplement would effect these signs of aging on the human body. The study involved approximately 150 participants. At the end of the two years the conclusion was that adding DHEA as a supplement did not have any significant impact on the effects of aging. Things included in the study were loss of muscle mass, muscle strength and endurance, and glucose tolerance.
Some early laboratory clinical studies that involved animals had indicated that DHEA might be effective in increasing the amount of weight loss possible in older individuals when used as a nutritional supplement. A clinical trial was conducted on older individuals to see if taking DHEA as a supplement would aid them in weight loss. The study focused on individuals who were over the age of 60. The findings at the end of the study concluded that the individuals who took DHEA were able to lose 2 pounds per week while their counterparts who took a placebo actually gained a pound per week. Another finding which was more promising was that in those who had an abundance of abdominal fat found that the women lost up to 10% of their abdominal fat. The men lost up to 7% of their abdominal fat while using DHEA as a supplement.
A subsequent study that focused on the correlation of DHEA levels and abdominal fat was conducted on individuals between the ages of 40 and 60. They found that it consistently showed a correlation between low DHEA levels in the individuals who had higher levels of abdominal fat or were obese. Both studies recommended further study before final recommendations were made for using DHEA as a weight loss supplement since the long term consequences of using DHEA are not known at this time. The preliminary studies however look promising for those individuals who are battling the battle of the bulge or that inner tube around the middle.
There has been quite a bit of clinical study on DHEA’s effect on systemic lupus erythematosus. The studies have shown that DHEA may very well have a positive effect on men and women who are suffering with this illness. DHEA may be able to stimulate mental function and increase bone density and mass. Lupus is an auto-immune disorder that affects the bodies connective tissues. There is a synthetic DHEA that is under investigation now by the FDA for the treatment of systemic lupus by helping to prevent the loss of certain minerals which are responsible for our bones and help bone density.
In accordance with that DHEA was studied to see how it could effect women who have osteoporosis. DHEA was found to be helpful in preventing the loss of bone density in those who are younger as well as women who have become menopausal and are trying to prevent osteoporosis. Long term studies have not been done at this time and further research is needed to get a final determination on its long term effect in this matter.
DHEA has also been studied as a nutritional supplement for its effect on erectile dysfunction in men. Results of clinical studies has been mixed at best. One study was done that showed that DHEA was helpful in men and women over the age of 70, however it was not helpful in people who were any younger than 70. Further study is needed before a final determination can be made in this matter.
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