DHEA (dehydroepiandeosterone) is produced by your adrenal glands. Dr. William Regelson, the most noted of DHEA researchers, calls it the “mother hormone” because it is the precursor (foundation or raw material) needed for the production of all other hormones, including our major sex hormones. Unfortunately, DHEA levels peak in the body at the age of 20 and then rapidly decrease. At age 40, most people secrete only 33% of what they produced when they were young. In our 60’s and 70’s, we have only 5 to 10% of our original level. The graph of this decline closely matches the increase of the killer illnesses of cancer and heart disease.
Until recently, supplemental DHEA could only be found in drug form, available through prescription from your doctor. However, scientists have been able to formulate an herbal DHEA precursor from a saponin called Dioscorea (Mexican Yam). In the body, the supplementary herbal complex from the Mexican Yam converts to DHEA, which the body then converts, when needed, into active hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, corticosterone, etc.
Dioscorea has been known to have a powerful effect on regulating hormone production. In its natural state it has no known side effects and is non-toxic. Many doctors do not know that prescription progestins are made from progesterone that is derived from the Mexican Yam (or pregnant mare’s urine which is a cheaper source). The pharmaceutical companies alter the molecular form of the substance in order to patent it. A natural substance cannot be patented. Natural progesterone is readily available and is safer and more effective than synthetics.
When blood levels of DHEA are increased to the level you had at a younger age, many health problems disappear. 44,000 research articles substantiate the positive results of increased DHEA levels: reversal of the aging process, and reduced risk and elimination of most age-related diseases and health problems. Supplemental DHEA is helpful in cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, memory loss, depression and obesity, to name a few. All share a common trait – low DHEA levels.
Increasing the blood level of DHEA decreases the stickiness of platelets (small particles in the blood that often clump together and cause heart attacks and strokes), lowers the blood cholesterol level, and lowers blood pressure in people with elevated levels of blood pressure. In a twelve year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Barrett-Conner found that not only did DHEA levels decrease with age, but people with a history of heart disease had particularly low levels.
When DHEA was administered, there was a 48% reduction of cardiovascular disease. A 1988 study was done at Johns Hopkins in which rabbits with severe atherosclerosis were treated with DHEA. They had an almost 50% reduction in plaque size. Note: Physicians believe that a low fat diet is essential for heart patients. This is not so. Refined carbohydrates, sugar and other junk foods are worse for the heart (Dr. Atkins’ Health Revelations, 1994).
In a study done at Temple University by Dr. Arthur Schwartz, DHEA was given to mice bred to develop breast cancer, and they remained cancer free. The hormone also prevented lung tumours and bowel cancer in the mouse population, and significantly extended their total life span. A study of 5,000 apparently healthy women on the Isle of Guernsey demonstrated that those who were destined to get breast cancer had subnormal DHEA levels up to nine years before their cancer was diagnosed.
Many studies have found that DHEA inhibits viruses and decreases the risk of cancer. A 1991 study (Jacobson et al, U. of California at San Francisco) found that DHEA inhibits RNA and DNA viral expression including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication. In the Journal of Infectious Diseases, (Nov.1991), Dr. William Regelson demonstrated that people with HIV virus do not suffer from full-blown AIDS until their adrenal output of DHEA drops. Men with low levels of DHEA had double the risk of full-blown AIDS compared to men with normal DHEA levels.
Menopause And Hormone Replacement Therapy
Supplemental DHEA increases the level of estrogen in women and testosterone in men to levels found in younger women and men. It may be safer to supplement with DHEA than estrogen and testosterone. One might wonder if Mother Nature made a mistake by allowing progesterone and estrogen deficiencies to occur in women around menopause. It is interesting to note that in other cultures, the deficiencies do not occur. There are over 5,000 plants that make sterols that can convert to estrogen and progesterone in the body. However, our culture turns to processed and chemically treated foods whose vitamin and sterol levels have dropped dramatically.
When blood levels of DHEA are increased, fat and cholesterol levels are reduced. Not only does DHEA burn fat off, it appears to replace it with muscle tissue. In a double blind study, at the Medical College of Virginia, men given daily doses of DHEA decreased body fat by 31% on the average, though their weight didn’t change. The fat seemed to have given way to muscle. Blood levels of plaque-causing LDL cholesterol dropped about 7%. The researchers suggested the drug increased skeletal muscle while converting stored fat to estrogen, which could explain the cholesterol drop.
Note: Please refer to Bountiful Health, Boundless Energy and Brilliant Youth by Dr. Neecie Moore for full references to these studies.
How You Can Obtain DHEA
DHEA is virtually nontoxic, as the body uses what it needs. Your body uses the extra DHEA if it needs it, and ignores it if it doesn’t. For instance, an animal with a viral infection will use all the extra DHEA to enhance its immune system. If the animal does not need it, the extra DHEA is simply ignored. Dr. Regelson uses about 50 mg. every other day in men and women. The every other day routine is used in order to ensure the continued production of DHEA by the adrenal glands. However, larger doses may be needed for more severe diseases.
The goal of physiological replacement is to increase your blood level of DHEA or DHEA sulfate to that found in a normal 20 to 30 year-old person (Dr. Julian Whitaker, Health & Healing, Jun.1992). Supplementary DHEA is available through i) Emprise products from Emprise International Associates; ii) Pro-Gest products from Professional and Technical Services; iii) some pharmacists carry various natural progesterone formulas. Please contact Consumer Health Organization for more information.
Note: DHEA is no longer available in Ontario due to laws restricting our access to certain dietary supplements.