A: DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is the most abundant androgen that is produced in the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are also involved in the production of other hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and cortisone. DHEA is secreted into the bloodstream and is converted by the liver to DHEA-S (DHEA-sulfate).
Optimal DHEA-S levels are important for healthy aging. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging showed that men who had higher DHEA-S levels had significantly greater longevity as compared to men with lower levels. An Italian study showed a direct relationship between DHEA-S levels in the functional independence of people over 90 years of age.
Some psychiatric studies have showed benefit with depression and improved mood in individuals with low DHEA-S levels. In another study, low DHEA-S levels in women were found to be significantly associated with depression regardless of their age.
DHEA supplementation can produce noticeable improvements in aging parameters including less muscle wasting and wrinkling of the skin, less fatigue and improved muscle mass. In prolonged stressful states such as chronic illness, the adrenal glands may under function and produce subnormal levels ofDHEA and other adrenal hormones.
Information provided by Stephen Ellestad, D.O., age management medicine, 2910 Westown Parkway, Suite 305, West Des Moines, 225-7900.