The Health Benefits of DHEA
DHEA is vital to health
Dehydroepiandrosterone (pronounced dee-hi-dro-ep-i-an-dro-stair-own), or more commonly called DHEA, is the most abundant steroid found in the human blood stream. It is also one of the most reliable bio-markers of aging.
DHEA is secreted by the adrenal glands, and also produced in the gonads (testes and ovaries), and brain. It is sometimes called the “mother of all hormones” because it is the building block from which estrogen and testosterone are produced, and is vital to health.
Thousands of scientific articles have been published on DHEA during the last 50 years, but a clear picture of its role in human health didn’t begin to emerge until the 1990’s.
DHEA exhibits an amazingly wide diversity of effects
DHEA has been reported to have anti-diabetic, anti-dementia, anti-obesity, anti-carcinogenic, anti-stress, immune-enhancing, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, anti-aging and anti-heart disease effects. In addition, research has shown that DHEA:
- is an antioxidant
- is a hormone regulator (it helps regulate the thyroid & pituitary glands, and enhances thymus gland function)
- decreases cholesterol
- stimulates the production of human growth hormone
- boosts immunity by stimulating killer cell activity
- increases the sensitivity of cells to insulin
- assists in returning the body to a balanced state after a stress reaction
- improves cognitive function, bone formation and libido
- enhances mood by increasing the brain’s serotonin levels
DHEA levels decrease with age
Your DHEA levels vary throughout your life, and naturally decline as you get older. We produce large amounts of DHEA when we’re young, and research shows that children’s brains require a significant amount of DHEA to grow and develop. DHEA levels peak at age 25 and decline at a rate of about 2% a year, thereafter. It isn’t until the mid-forties, however, that we being to feel the effects of lower DHEA levels. By age 80, most people’s DHEA blood levels are only about 15% of where they were during the 20s. By the time we’re 90, DHEA levels are down to 5%.4
According to Michael Galitzer, M.D., co-founder of the American Health Institute in Los Angeles, California, symptoms of a DHEA deficiency include: poor memory, poor resistance to noise, anxiety, decreased libido (especially in women), decreased armpit and pubic hair, and dry skin, eyes or hair.5
Very low levels of DHEA have been linked to cardiovascular disease in men, some cancers, trauma, and stress; low levels are also associated with old age, particularly in the unwell, institutionalized elderly. Research has also shown a correlation between low DHEA levels and a declining immune system. Also, Alzheimer patients have exhibited low DHEA levels, when compared to their healthy counterparts.
Other factors that contribute to decreased DHEA levels
- nutritional imbalances
- a vegetarian diet low in cholesterol and healthy fats
Replacement of low levels of DHEA through regular supplementation has been proposed as a way to indirectly slow down the aging process and improve quality of life. In addition, DHEA is known to stabilize nerve-cell growth and is being tested in Alzheimer’s patients. And since you can’t obtain DHEA from food, supplementation is recommended in order to maintain adequate levels for optimal health.