The most abundant steroid in the human body is DHEA. DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands. DHEA is involved in creating testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and corticosterone. As we age the production of DHEA declines. By age 75 the body makes only 10 to 20 percent what it produced at age twenty.

Decreasing DHEA levels are closely associated with a number of age-related diseases and disabilities. Researchers and scientists speculate if aging men and women can restore their DHEA to levels produced in their youth, youthful health and vigor will also be restored.

Studies have shown:

• Adult men with high plasma DHEA-S levels are less likely to die of cardiovascular disease
• DHEA increases the body’s ability to transform food into energy and burn off excess fat
• Anti-inflammatory properties of DHEA combined with conventional treatment could potentially improve the quality of life across a wide range of illnesses such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer
• DHEA is secreted throughout the body during sex. High levels of DHEA have beeb associated with several health benefits which include longevity, building muscle mass, depression as well as enhanced libido.
• Daily DHEA supplementation remedies some of the side effects of menopause
• DHEA has been found to reduce risk factors associated with age-related heart disease and improves blood vessels by stimulating the linings of arteries to produce nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes arterial tension.
• DHEA supplementation for men and women, in youth or in older age, can be considered as a safe, multi-modal anti-aging supplement, which promotes quality of life and increases the odds of living longer lives.

Side effects and warnings of DHEA supplements

There have been few side effects reported when DHEA supplements are taken by mouth in recommended doses. In clinical trials, acne is a common reported side effect. Patients with HIV commonly complain of fatigue, nasal congestion, headache and insomnia. Women commonly complain of abnormal menses, emotional changes, headache and insomnia. Other side effects may include:

• Agitation
• Delusions
• Mania
• Nervousness
• Irritability
• Psychosis

In addition, high DHEA levels have been associated with Cushing’s syndrome, but may be caused by excessive supplementation.
Individuals with a history of abnormal heart rhythms, blood clots or hypercoagulability, and individuals with a history of liver disease should avoid DHEA supplements.

Other possible side effects due to the fact that DHEA is a hormone related to other male and female hormones may include:

• Masculinization in women such as acne, greasy skin, facial hair, hair loss, increased sweating, weight gain around the waist or a deeper voice
• Men may develop more prominent breasts or breast tenderness
• Men may experience increased blood pressure, testicular wasting or increased aggressiveness
DHEA supplementation may also alter the production or balance of various other hormones in the body. These hormonal-related side effects may include:

• Increased blood sugar levels
• Insulin resistance
• Altered cholesterol levels
• Altered thyroid hormone levels
• Altered adrenal function

Use caution if you are an individual with diabetes or hyperglycemia, high cholesterol, thyroid disorder or other endocrine (hormonal abnormalities. Consult with your physician before taking DHEA supplements. The serum glucose, cholesterol and thyroid levels may need to be monitored by your physician and medication adjustments may be necessary.

DHEA supplements are not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. DHEA is a hormone and may be unsafe to the fetus or nursing infant.

Source: American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine; Mayo Clinic

Disclaimer: *This article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any kind of a health problem. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult with your health care provider about any kind of a health problem and especially before beginning any kind of an exercise routine.

This article is FREE to publish with the resource box. Article written 5-2007.

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