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A study on DHEA

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2 years ago #1
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• DHEA and Cancer
• The Anti-Obesity Factor
• DHEA and Glucose Metabolism
• DHEA and Appetite
• DHEA and Aging
• Enhancing Brain Function
• DHEA and Immune Function
• DHEA: The Buffering Steroid?
• Dosage
• Conclusion
• Regulatory Difficulties
• References
• Additional Information

I. Introduction

Dehydroepiandrosterone (pronounced dee-hi-dro-epp-ee-ann-dro-stehr-own), or DHEA as it is more often called, is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland. It is the most abundant steroid in the bloodstream and is present at even higher levels in brain tissue. DHEA levels are known to drop precipitously with age, falling 90% from age 20 to age 90. DHEA is known to be a precursor to the numerous steroid sex hormones (including estrogen and testosterone) which serve well-known functions, but the specific biological role of DHEA itself is not so well understood. It is difficult for researchers to separate the effects of DHEA from those of the primary sex steroids into which it is metabolized. The apparent lack of any direct hormone action for DHEA has prompted the suggestion that it may serve the role of a "buffering hormone" which would alter the state-dependency of other steroid hormones. Although the specific mechanisms of action for DHEA are only partially understood, supplemental DHEA has been shown to have anti-aging, anti-obesity and anti-cancer influences. In addition, it is known to stabilize nerve-cell growth and is being tested in Alzheimer's patients.
Our understanding of the specific mechanisms of DHEA in metabolism was advanced by the publication of The Biologic Role of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), edited by Mohammed Kalimi and William Regelson [1990]. This book presents 24 chapters from scientists around the world who are conducting DHEA research. The breadth of the work is impressive. As Drs. Regelson, Kalimi and Loria stated in their introductory remarks, "DHEA modulates diabetes, obesity, carcinogenesis, tumor growth, neurite outgrowth, virus and bacterial infection, stress, pregnancy, hypertension, collagen and skin integrity, fatigue, depression, memory and immune responses."
The introductory chapter, by the editors and Dr. R. Loria, briefly reviews DHEA's biochemistry, endocrinology, and potential clinical uses. The chapter contends that DHEA is perhaps the most significant endocrine biomarker known, and further postulates that all of the steroid's effects may be explained by its action as a precursor hormone which provides "a host of steroid progeny with which to maintain the broad balance of host response related to species and individual survival."

II. DHEA and Cancer

Early reports from England [Bulbrook, 1962, 1971] suggested that DHEA was abnormally low in women who developed breast cancer, even as much as nine years prior to the onset or diagnosis of the disease. Of the 5000 women followed in the study, 27 developed cancer. Most of the 27 had abnormally low levels of DHEA. If low DHEA levels contributed to breast cancer, might the opposite be true? Many years later, Dr. Arthur Schwartz of Temple University found that supplemental DHEA significantly protected cell cultures from the toxicity of carcinogens. Cell cultures usually respond to powerful carcinogens with mutations (changes in DNA), transformations (changes in cell appearance), and a high rate of cell death. But when Schwartz added DHEA along with the carcinogen, all three of these effects were significantly diminished.
Subsequent studies [Schwartz, 1979] identified powerful protective effects of supplemented DHEA for breast-cancer-prone mice. The results of the experiment were clear after eight months. The control animals were "developing cancer left and right" while the DHEA-augmented animals had no tumors. In two later studies with different strains of mice, Schwartz found 75%

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