Anti-Aging/Health-Promoting Effects of DHEA
Bone-building effects and other benefits
The role of DHEA in helping to prevent osteoporosis in both men and women is important and deserves closer examination. DHEA’s ability to increase bone density has been linked to its twofold mechanism: promoting the growth of new bone and preventing the breakdown of the existing bone.
In order to build tissue, the bone uses the enzyme aromatase to convert DHEA to estrone. Estrone affects osteoblasts by causing them to produce more bone tissue. Estrone helps create bone in both genders; testosterone can also be quickly turned into estradiol, which is then transformed into estrone. Sex steroids are thought to play an important role in bone formation for both sexes, with a particular emphasis on the role of estrogens. Ravaglia and Forti believe that estrogens are more important than androgens and IGF-1 for male bone metabolism, which is different from the traditional belief. DHEA is a significant source of estrogen for both men and women. A recent study found that women with low levels of estradiol or DHEA-S are at increased risk of fractures. A study done in France found that women with low levels of DHEA-S also had low muscle strength, regardless of age.
There is a positive correlation between IGF-1 and DHEA-S levels, as well as an increase in IGF-1 with DHEA use. Some studies have found that DHEA may lower sex hormone-binding globulin levels, leading to higher levels of “free” or bioavailable sex hormones.
DHEA’s ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF and IL-6 comes from its anti-osteolytic mechanism. The levels of these cytokines increase with age. Pro-inflammatory cytokines trigger the release of free radicals, which then stimulate osteoclasts to break down existing bone. DHEA is able to slow the process of bone breakdown by inhibiting cytokines such as IL-6.
DHEA also has the ability to keep skin cells young. An in vitro study recently confirmed that DHEA can both increase collagen production and inhibit the breaking down of collagen by the enzyme collagenase. All connective tissue benefits from increased collagen production, including blood vessels and joints. The study found that older women who took DHEA orally improved their skin in terms of thickness, hydration, pigmentation, and sebum production.
The inclusion of DHEA in hormone replacement regimens is supported by its role as a precursor for both androgen and estrogen production in various kinds of tissue, including bone. Primate adrenal glands produce large quantities of DHEA and DHEA-S, which sets them apart from other animals. The androstenedione is converted into other sex steroids as needed by the body. Postmenopausal women rely heavily on the transformation of precursor hormones into essential sex steroids from peripheral sources. Peripheral tissue may be especially affected by hormone deficiency when a woman reaches menopause and production of DHEA dramatically drops. Unless replacement is provided. There is a significant drop in beta-endorphins after menopause, which leads to a decrease in the sense of well-being. Sufficient DHEA increases beta-endorphins and improves mood.
There are people who think that it is best just to provide hormone precursors like DHEA and pregnenolone and that the body will know how to convert them into estrogens and androgens as needed. There is no effect on the endometrium when using DHEA instead of typical hormone replacement- even if the dose of DHEA is large enough to cause changes in the lining of the vagina. The woman only needs to worry about using the right dose of progesterone with her estrogen dose and not worry about balancing it. Sore breasts are also unlikely. The most common side effects are related to androgens rather than estrogens: acne and increased facial and body hair. Some women who are sensitive to the effects of an increase in androgen levels, particularly DHT, may stop taking DHEA after a few months due to acne. Although some women report experiencing side effects from DHEA, others find that it provides them with increased energy, an improved sense of physical and mental well-being, and other benefits. For those women who benefit from DHEA but produce too much DHT, it might be advisable to take the prescription drug Proscar every other day. Proscar prevents an enzyme from turning testosterone into too much DHT.
DHEA May Help Reduce Diabetes Damage
Kidneys are one of the organs that are severely damaged by the high serum glucose that is characteristic of diabetes. DHEA has been shown to have antioxidant activity that protects against lipid peroxidation caused by excess glucose. A recent study found that DHEA could reduce the cellular damage caused by high levels of sugar, as well as reduce the risk of cell damage from oxidation. The University of Louisiana found that DHEA diabetes rats against the development of fibrosis in a way that resembled the benefits of calorie restriction.
The study found that vitamin E had similar protective effects on neural tissue as it did on other tissue. This included restoring normal levels of alpha-tocopherol and unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes. A separate study found that DHEA increased the antioxidant enzyme catalase in brain tissue. DHEA also had positive effects on liver and kidney tissue, increasing the levels of reduced glutathione and enhancing the activity of superoxide dismutase, glutathione-peroxidase, and catalase to reduce free radical levels. DHEA had a protective effect in an animal model of diabetes and stroke by reducing the concentration of free radicals in neural tissue. DHEA is viewed as a fat-reducing hormone because it can help dispose of glucose. This means that it can help you burn more fat, even when you’re not working out. DHEA also helps to prevent obesity, although it is not as powerful as growth hormone and testosterone. It appears that you would need to take a large amount of DHEA in order to see any significant effect on body fat loss in humans.
This study looked at the levels of DHEA and DHEA-S in the blood of 117 people with Alzheimer’s disease and compared them to a control group of the same age, sex, and race. 26% less risk of developing colon cancer. Cases had a mean serum DHEA-S concentration that was 13% lower than that of healthy controls. Statistical significance was not reached, however. To conclude that DHEA-S protects against colon cancer in men, a larger study needs to be done.
DHEA and the Neuroendocrine Theory of Aging
This theory holds that aging is a result of a lifelong imbalance between two groups of hormones: those that stimulate growth and those that regulate growth. Prof. Vladimir Dilman’s neuroendocrine theory of aging posits that aging is caused by a lifelong imbalance between two groups of hormones: those that stimulate growth and those that regulate it. The neuroendocrine theory suggests that a loss of hypothalamic and peripheral hormone receptor sensitivity is a major cause of aging and age-related diseases. DHEA affects the aging process in several ways by regulating the neuroendocrine system.
First, DHEA is a major biomarker that can be returned to youthful levels by supplementation. In addition to being a hormone, DHEA is also a hormone receptor sensitizer, meaning it can stimulate activity. This means it actually helps hormones work better. For example, DHEA increases the number of NMDA receptors in the brain, as well as increases in IGF-1 and receptors for growth hormone. Additionally, it has been shown to reverse the age-related decline of some hypothalamic-pituitary functions.
Dr. John Nestler of the Medical College of Virginia said that DHEA may be the connection between high insulin levels and atherosclerosis. He believes that high insulin levels can lower DHEA levels, and low DHEA levels may be involved in the development of atherosclerosis. He suggested that taking DHEA may help prevent atherosclerosis in conditions characterized by high insulin levels.
DHEA has been shown to have the following effects:
- Cognitive enhancing
- Immune enhancing
- Increases bone mineral density
DHEA and Lifespan
There are no data that suggest that DHEA will have an effect on the maximum lifespan of any species. An interesting study was conducted by scientists at the University of Wisconsin to determine the comparative effects of DHEA and caloric restriction on cancer incidence and the lifespan of mice.
In this study, four groups of twelve-month-old mice were used. Two groups were Fed a standard laboratory diet, and two groups were fed a calorically restricted diet. The most effective way to extend the maximum lifespan of experimental animals is by restricting their calories. The researchers wanted to see if DHEA would have any life-extending effects, so they gave it to one group of rats on a laboratory diet and one group of rats on a restricted diet. While DHEA showed no effect on cancer rates or longevity, scientists were surprised. However, caloric restriction resulted in an increased maximum lifespan of 15 percent.
The Fujian Epidemic Prevention Station found that DHEA increased the lifespan of female fruitflies and increased blood levels of the potent antioxidant superoxide dismutase in rats.
DHEA Dosage and Timing
While dosages of up to 1,500 mg per day have been used safely in a number of studies for periods of up to six months, these dosages are now considered to be excessive. A dosage of 50 to 100 mg per day is usually recommended for both men and women. However, I would suggest starting with a lower dose of 25 mg for women and 50 mg for men. Some women who efficiently convert DHEA to testosterone may only need a lower dose than 25 mg. Women with Lupus or MS do not usually experience the androgenic side effects of facial hair and voice deepening when taking higher doses.
I believe that when DHEA is supplemented may be just as important as the dosage. According to the author, it is important to take DHEA at a time when levels are normally at their highest. Physicians at the University of Parma in Italy conducted a study to determine the appropriate time to take DHEA. The study found that taking 50mg of DHEA each day at 7 am restored the circadian rhythm of DHEA and the cortisol/DHEA ratio in older subjects to that of much younger subjects.
The recommended dosage should restore youthful levels of DHEA in the blood without causing testosterone, DHT, or estrogen levels to rise above those of a typical 30-to-40-year-old. She believes that the average person should take 25 to 50 mg of the medication once a day.
Dr. Samuel Yen of the University of California at San Diego stated that DHEA is a hormone with multiple benefits that include enhancing immunity, helping with diabetes, obesity, and cancer, and having positive effects on the brain and memory. He also said it can help slow the aging process.
While the life-prolonging benefits of DHEA have not been proven yet, its many positive effects on age-related issues and its correlation with lowered risk of death from all causes make it a great candidate to be included in a life-extension supplement plan.