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So you’re getting older who ever said you had to look or feel your age? DHEA may help you defy it

So you’re getting older who ever said you had
to look or feel your age? DHEA may help you defy it

Her name was Duchess and she helped lead me to one of the most important anti-aging breakthroughs I’ve learned about in years. Oh, and you should probably know that Duchess is a dog. You see, she’d just undergone major surgery (a hysterectomy-major for any species), and after her recovery she just wasn’t the same dog she’d been: The world seemed to be going in slow motion for her-she took longer to do everything. And she began gaining a lot of weight very quickly.

Duchess’ owner enrolled her in a study on weight reduction in dogs. The researchers tested the ability of dehydroepiandrosterone-better known as DHEA-to help Duchess lose weight. It worked. In just two months, she shed 22 percent of her body weight. But the numbers on the scale weren’t the only thing moving in reverse for Duchess: she suddenly seemed like a puppy again, with all the energy and happiness her owner remembered from years passed.

So what on earth could Duchess have taught me that has made me think it’s important enough to share her story with you? Sure, Duchess is a dog, but the problems she faced were ones that are all too familiar to most humans heading into middle to old age. And just as the symptoms are the same, so is the effective treatment: DHEA.

Hormone therapy from your local WalMart

Like so many other miracles of natural medicine, DHEA has become rather controversial. You’ve probably heard it called everything from the fountain of youth to dangerous hormonal hogwash. So what should you believe?

First of all, you need to know that DHEA is a natural hormone produced in the body. In fact, the body makes more DHEA than all the other hormones combined. DHEA is a precursor hormone, i.e. it is used to make most of the other hormones. Since your body makes DHEA on its own, it can hardly be classified as a dangerous substance. But, as with all the other hormones, your body produces less and less DHEA as you age. Bringing your levels back up to what they were when you were 30 will make you look and feel more like you did back then and who wouldn’t want to shave a few (or 20) years off their age? So in the early 1990s, DHEA supplements began popping up all over the place, even in your local WalMart.

This is where the problems started.

The FDA should know better: Hormones aren’t health foods

Although it was approved by the FDA as a health food product, DHEA really wasn’t a health food but a hormone. And hormone therapy needs to be very closely monitored by someone (usually a doctor) who can test your levels and tell you just how much, if any, you need. But people began taking it on their own and reports of bad experiences led to full scale studies that did their best to decry DHEA’s benefits. I’ve always found it ironic that so many scientists yell “cancer” with no convincing evidence as soon as they hear something referred to as a “natural alternative,” while remaining strangely silent about the cancer probabilities of fluoride in your water, synthetic estrogen and synthetic progesterone.

DHEA is a strong anti-aging agent, along with HGH and testosterone. It is safe, when used properly, and does not have a cancer risk.

The crucial blood test your doctor isn’t giving you

Research over the past 10 years reported in important medical journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, has shown that deficient DHEA levels in the blood are associated with increased heart disease, breast cancer and a decline in the competence of the immune system. Some of the conditions DHEA has been touted for include:

  • Aging
  • Heart disease
  • Lupus
  • Arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Insomnia

This is quite a list, and I don’t think that DHEA is the answer to all of these problems all of the time. But it is an important aspect of general good health to maintain optimal levels. Instead of checking cholesterol levels, doctors should be checking DHEA levels on a routine basis, especially in patients over 50. But ask the average doctor about DHEA and you will discover that he knows little, if anything, about it.

Reduce your risk of heart attack, breast cancer, and death in general

While it may not be a cure-all, there is plenty of evidence supporting DHEA’s role in protecting against heart disease and breast cancer. The importance of DHEA in protecting the immune system cannot be overstated. Research at the University of California revealed that for every microgram per cc increase in blood levels of DHEA death by all causes was diminished by 36 percent. It gets even better. In men over 50, there was a 48 percent decrease in death from heart attacks.

Research on breast cancer is equally impressive. In one study, researchers induced breast tumors in rats, then divided them into two groups: One group received no treatment, the other received doses of DHEA equivalent to those found in normal adult women. Tumor growth was over 40 percent slower in the DHEA treated rats than in the non-treated group, and the DHEA group’s tumors were up to 30 times smaller than the control group.

If you don’t need it, don’t take it

I have recommended DHEA for years and I still recommend it-but not for everyone. You may not need it at all. You shouldn’t take hormones you don’t need-even if you don’t have to have a prescription. As with all the hormones, if you are over the age of 50, you are probably deficient. This is a good place to start on hormone replacement therapy. It would be better to increase your testosterone level, for instance, naturally by DHEA administration than with injections.

Actions to take:

Forget the propaganda against it-you should take DHEA seriously.

(1) You still don’t need a prescription to get DHEA-check your local WalMart, they might still carry it. But even though it’s widely available, I don’t recommend taking any hormone-even a safe one like DHEA-without having your level tested to make sure you actually need it. Have your doctor test your level. If it is below that of a normal 30-year-old, you should begin taking DHEA.

(2) I take 200 milligrams of DHEA every day. But you probably will only need to take between 50 and 100 milligrams. Again, you should consult a doctor who understands DHEA and can help you determine how much is right for you. If your current physician doesn’t “do” DHEA, contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine at (800)532-3688, (714)583-7666, or www.acam.org. They can give you a list of alternative doctors in your area.

(3) Beware of the herbal products sold in health food stores as “DHEA precursors.” It’s bunkum. Be sure you’re getting the real thing. RH

References:

“Oh Dear. Must Be the Hormones.” The Nutrition Reporter 1997; 8(2.5) supplemental issue

“A prospective study of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, mortality, and cardiovascular disease.” New England Journal of Medicine 1986; 315(24) 1,519-1,524

“Prevention by dehydroepiandrosterone of the development of mammary carcinoma induced by 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA) in the rat.” Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 1994; 29(2): 203-217.

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