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More Information On DHEA

The adrenal glands produce the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) which has long been recognized as an important biomarker of aging. DHEA levels decline with age, so that a 70 year-old typically only has about 10% as much DHEA as a 20 year-old. By the time a person reaches 30 years, DHEA levels have usually declined to less than 5% of 20 year-old levels.

There are correlations between DHEA levels and a wide range of degenerative diseases. Men who die of heart disease generally have significantly less DHEA than others of the same age. Similarly, people with Alzheimer's disease and with many types of cancer have been shown to have below-normal age-adjusted DHEA levels. For many years, there has been a question as to whether low DHEA levels were a cause or an effect of aging and degenerative diseases. Current research indicates that low DHEA levels are a cause of many age related disorders and that oral supplementation with DHEA can slow the onslaught of aging.

DHEA also appears to be useful in combating auto-immune disorders, especially lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus). DHEA has demonstrated the potential for preventing or treating a broad range of other disorders including cancer (especially breast cancer), obesity, senile dementia, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and weakened immune systems. Supplemental DHEA often markedly improves physical flexibilty and endurance.

DHEA decreases appetite by increasing the levels of cholecystokinin, the hormone that tells your brain that you've had enough to eat. It also tends to inhibit the conversion of glucose to fat, which keeps people from gaining as much weight from eating carbohydrates as they otherwise would. DHEA can significantly improve one's cholesterol profile, raising HDL levels and lowering LDL levels. In some individuals, this effect can be quite profound. DHEA can now be purchased without a physician's prescription in the US. Before its deregulation by the FDA it was imported from overseas suppliers or could only be obtained with a doctor's prescription.

Typical dosages of DHEA range from 25 mg. per day upward. Although nothing is perfectly safe, a 25 mg. per day dosage of DHEA is almost totally without risk of side effects and will substantially increase DHEA levels in most people. Anyone using more than 25 mg. per day should have their blood level of DHEA or DHEA sulfate checked occasionally and be under a physician's supervision.

Dosages of 100 mg. per day or more will increase androgen (male sex hormone) levels in women; and at some high dosages women will experience the effects of this, usually in the form of increased facial hair. These effects are slow to develop and reversible, though. You won't suddenly wake up with a beard. In some instances, too much DHEA can cause acne in women.

The increase in male sex hormones in women caused by DHEA is not entirely a bad thing, if kept within limits. The adrenal glands normally produce some male sex hormones, even in women. Modest increases in these hormones can increase characteristics such as motivation and sex drive.

In men or women, extremely high doses (1000 mg. or more per day, or the use of micronized DHEA powder or DHEA-alcohol solutions at more than about 200 mg. per day) may limit the output of the heart in response to exercise. In the human body, DHEA is converted to DHEA sulfate, which is water soluble. Most of the DHEA in the bloodstream is DHEA sulfate. An excellent source of further information for those interested in using DHEA is a book published in mid-1996 called DHEA, A Practical Guide by Ray Sahelian, M.D. It is published by the Avery publishing Group of Garden City, New York. It is available in some bookstores and can be special-ordered by others. This book contains numerous references to the scientific literature on DHEA.

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