October 2, 2004
Q: What is DHEA and what is it used for? - Technical
A: DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an intermediate steroid precursor hormone to 50 other essential hormones produced by the adrenal glands of our bodies. This hormone was first isolated from urine by Adolph Butenandt in 1931 for which he was awarded the Nobel prize. In 1944, S-DHEA, the sulfate ester of DHEA, was discovered. Etienne-Emile Baulieu discovered DHEA was produced by the adrenal cortex in 1960. DHEA is the most abundant hormone in the body. The average 20 year old - male produces about 30 mg. a day and female about 20 mg. a day. These amounts rapidly decline after the age of 20 so that by the age of 40 there is a 50% decline and by the age of 85, a 95% decline. When brought back to more youthful levels, chronic inflammation resulting in Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis, cancer, depression, decreased libido, heart valve dysfunction, diabetes, congestive heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, is reduced or eliminated. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein, cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor - alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin 1(b) [IL-1(b)], and/or leukotriene B4(LTB4), indicating inflammation, are reduced. DHEA and its synthetic analogs, IM28, in particular, have been found to produce partial inhibition of HIV replication, possibly due in part, to its antioxidant properties and impact on metabolic enzymes. DHEA also thwarts viruses by inhibiting free-radical generation (antioxidant property) and NF-kappa-B activation, reducing inflammation and viral replication. DHEA elevates insulin growth factors, thereby, increasing lean muscle mass and fat loss. Both DHEA and S-DHEA crosses the blood-brain barrier to affect serotonin, GABA receptors, and other hormones to lift depression. DHEA also elevates acetycholine levels in the brain to improve long- and short-term memory. When applied directly to the skin after a serious burn, DHEA reduces or prevents, skin sloughing. DHEA is also a precursor hormone to testosterone (the male hormone) and estrogen (the female hormone) and elevates these hormones to more youthful levels. To determine the proper amount of DHEA levels in the blood and determine the proper dose to take, the S-DHEA level in the blood in micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) should be measured: males- 400-560 and females- 350-430 after 3-6 weeks of supplementation and about 3-4 hours after the last dose. Males with prostate disorders (cancer, enlargement) and women with breast cancer or family histories of these, should refrain from taking any form of DHEA unless under the care of a healthcare professional, as DHEA can aggravate these conditions. Men should have a PSA test done and women should have an estrogen and free testosterone done at least every 6-12 months while using DHEA. People with liver disease, should have their liver enzymes monitored as DHEA is converted to S-DHEA in the liver. Also, at this point, free radicals are created and it would be helpful to use an antioxidant supplement such as vitamin E. To reduce the risk of liver damage DHEA can be taken sublingually (under your tongue) or topically (on the skin) to reduce the amount passing through the liver. The best time of day to take DHEA is in the morning to mimic the natural production of DHEA which, by noon, is converted by the liver to S-DHEA and the DHEA/S-DHEA (10% DHEA/90% S--DHEA) ratio is stabilized.
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