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Carrie Cannon


     DHEA is the most common hormone in our bodies and is named "the mother of all hormones" as a result of it being the precursor to over 50 other hormones in the body. DHEA is an abbreviation for dehydroepiandro sterone, which i s pronounced dee-hi-dro-epp-ee-an- dro sterown. DHEA is produced in the adrenal glands and is converted on command to specific hormones the body needs to maintain bodily functions, such as the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. DHEA is also responsible for producing hormones that control fat and mineral metabolism as well as stress. However, researchers have found that our body has specific DHEA receptors, proving that DHEA directly effects our body in some way. Overall, it is responsible for maintaining "youthful vigor, a lean body and many other desirable traits."

     Unfortunately, natural levels of DHEA hit peak levels around the age of twenty and then decrease as we age. In fact, levels of DHEA when we are 80 are only 10% to 20% that of levels at age 20. Many researchers believe that "decreasing levels ofDHEA contribute to symptoms normally associated with aging as well as many degenerative conditions such as cancer and atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries." Therefore, it seems likely that it would be of great benefit to find a way to compensate for the lowering ofDHEA levels as we age. In this way, we may find a way to possibly reverse the aging process, creating a "fountain of youth." Sounds too good to be true? Many supplement suppliers have caught on to this notion and are claiming that everything from weight loss to increased sex drive can occur by popping a DHEA pill.  Supplement suppliers are selling DHEA in the pill form and suggesting that the general dosage should be 25 to 50 mg a day, or one tablet three times a day, stating that the goal be to "provide your body with the nutritional raw materials to efficiently produce and maintain its own DHEA levels."


     We already know that some researchers claim that DHEA is the "fountain of youth hormone" and the "master hormone" , and that it is largely responsible for maintaining many of the body's fUnctions. Therefore, supplement suppliers are able to claim positive benefits to a vast array of conditions by taking supplemental DHEA.


     One source states that "one of the most exciting benefits ofDHEA is its ability to burn fat and help keep it off by converting fat to muscle." Instead of storing calories as fat, DHEA aids in burning calories for energy. Another source claims that this finding may be one of the "most significant finds in weight control of this century," because no matter what you eat, weight loss still occurs.

     How does this happen? According to one doctor, DHEA appears to "create a stabilizing effect on all body systems." Instead of weight loss "due to the breakdown of lean muscle tissue or fluid loss," DHEA is claimed to directly help the body build lean muscle tissue. Apparently DHEA blocks G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate-dehyrogenase), the major enzyme responsible for the production of fat tissue as well as cancer cells. Therefore by blocking G6PD, DMEA blocks the production of these two detrimental conditions.


     As stated above, the blocking of G6PD receptors by DHEA also lowers the production of cancer cell. Therefore, many companies claim that "DHEA has been found to improve function and to have significant anti-cancer and anti-tumor effects." One study claims that in the course of 22 years, women with higher than average levels ofDHEA remained cancer flee, while women with lower levels developed breast cancer within nine years of the lowering ofDHEA levels. Animal studies have shown that DHEA "blocked breast cancer in rats bred to develop it" and that it also showed "prevention of lung and bowel tumors."


     As we age, our DHEA levels decrease. At the same time, our enzyme system increases, accelerating the production of both fatty acids and cholesterol leading to major heart problems. The claim that supplemental DHEA aids in reducing cardiovascular problems has been shown in different sources. One doctor states that higher than average DHEA levels in men over the age of 50 were positively correlated with "48% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 35% reduction in mortality in any cause." Conversely, another study suggested that "build-up of atherosclerotic plaque and higher insulin levels fiom the ingestion of simple carbohydrates caused a reduction of DHEA levels in the body." Animal studies fiom John Hopkins have also shown that rabbits who had severe hardening of the arteries had an almost 50% reduction of arterial plaque when given DHEA supplements.


     Some of the major hormones which DHEA is a precursor are cortisol and adrenalin. These two hormones are directly related to human emotions such as stress, depression, and fear. The claim is that every time these hormones are produced, they take the place of DHEA, lowering DHEA levels. Periods of chronic stress can lead to depression, in which DHEA levels are continuously lowered. In fact, one source claims that low DHEA levels and depression are directly correlated. Conversely, it seems possible to alleviate depression as well as "counteract the negative effects of stress hormones" by increasing DHEA levels. One study found that, overall, men and women between the ages of 40 and 70 who took 50mg ofDHEA supplement every day for 6 months had substantial increase in "perceived physical and psychological well being" as compared to a placebo control group. The subjects taking DHEA reported things such as "improved ability to deal with stressful situations, increased energy, deeper sleep, improved mood and more relaxed feelings." Some animal studies claim that DHEA was shown to "provide 100% protection against the potentially lethal effects of stress on the immune system." Also, recent human studies state that DHEA has been shown to "significantly activate immune function" and that it has "powerful immune-enhancing properties."

     Related to the above findings that DHEA improves overall physical and psychological conditions is the finding that DHEA has also been linked to a reduction in fear. It does this by operating as an anti-glucocorticoid. Anti-glucocorticoids are densely spaced in the hippocampus, the area of the brain largely responsible for the reducing the negative physiological process of fear.




     No known studies have yet to provide solid evidence that DHEA supplements contribute significantly to weight loss.


Concerning cancer, however, DHEA has indeed been considered to possibly become a new anticancer drug. Bores et. al conducted a laboratory study DHEA was shown to decrease tumor mass in mice. More specifically, DHEA-S (DHEA in sulfated form) "significantly inhibited pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell proliferation in vive and in vitro" by successfUlly inhibiting G6PD. Bores et. al examined carbon deposit patterns of isotopically labeled RNA ribose in order to see if DHEA-S had any effect on blocking the chemical pathway that eventually led to the production of a tumor mass (Bores et al. 4242). The results showed DHEA-S to be a potent inhibitor of tumor cell proliferation (Bores et al. 4247) .

     Another study conducted by Juricskay et al, found DHEA and DHEA-S to play no significant role in the development of breast cancer. By measuring DHEA-S levels through radioimmunassay of postmenopausal women with breast cancer going into surgery along with women that were in surgery for some other reason than cancer, researchers found that urinary excretion "did not find any difference in urinary androgen levels in serum DHEA-S between breast cancer patients and controls in postmenopausal women" (Juricskay et al. 86).

     However, one study did find that treating mice with DHEA-S led to a "significant reduction of proliferation of human pancreatic cells and in mice. Supporting the results ofBoros et al., Melvin et al, injected DHEA-S via intraperitoneal injection into mice and human cells for five consecutive days and observed that after 3 weeks oftreatment, tumor size decreased by 73%.


     Yoneyama et al. found that some studies have found an "inverse correlation between the serum level of DHEA-S and the incidence of coronary heart disease in males" (Yoneyama et al. 833). It has already been proven that such hormones as estrogen or glucocorticoids lessens the growth of vascular smooth muscle cells. Therefore, they hypothesized that perhaps DHEA/DHEA-S attenuates "the proliferation of vascular intimal cells and prevented the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, resulting in the retardation of atherosclerosis." This was tested by examining effects of DHEA  on "the growth of human aortic smooth muscle cell (hASMC). Results showed that DHEA attenuated the growth of hASMC only when aided by "various growth mediators" in adult males (Yoneyama et al. 833). Further explanation must be produced in order to find a greater understanding of how DHEA/DHEA-S is related to hASMC and how it can most productively aid in the prevention of heart disease.


     Vaccine trials administered to humans by Evans et al. support the findings that DHEA "improved the antibody responses of aged animals against vaccines to which the recipient is naive (Evens et al. 1535)." As organisms age, their immune response weakens, therefore vaccinations do not work as well. However, when DHEA is used as an oral adjuvant in humans, it has a positive effect on the effectiveness of vaccines in elderly individuals compared to elderly individuals in a placebo controlgroup. However, the results were not statistically significant, and the researchers suggest that "larger trial using DHEA as an adjuvant in vaccines that are neoantigens may be indicated" (Evans 1530).


URL links:
http://home. ice. net/-ianw/endo, html

Bores, L.G., et al. "Oxythiamine and Dehydroepiandrosterone Inhibit the Nonoxidative Synthesis
     ofRibose and Tumor Cell Proliferation." Cancer Research; 1997 Oct Vol 57(19) 4242-8.

Juricskay, S., et al. "Urinary Steroids at Time of Surgery in Postmenopausal Women with Breast
     Cancer." Breast Cancer Research and Treatment; 1997 May Vol 44(1) 83-9.

Evans, T.G., et al. "The Use of Oral Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate as an Adjuvant in Tetanus
     and Influenza Vaccination of the Elderly." Vaccine; 1996 Nov Vol 14(16) 1 53 1-7.

Melvin, S.W., et al. "Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate Inhibits Pancreatic Carcinoma Cell
     Proliferation In Vitro and In Vive." Surgery; 1997 April Vol 121 392-97.

Yoneyama, A., et al. "Effects of Dehydroepiandrosterone on Proliferation of Human Aortic      Smooth Muscle Cells." Life Sciences; 1997 Vol 60(11) 833-8.



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