DHEA and fat in the elderly.





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DHEA has been heavily publicized for its potential use as an anti-aging agent. It is a hormone that functions as a precursor for the production of more than 50 other hormones in the body. It is estimated that from 30 to 50 percent of testosterone in men and about 75 percent of estrogen in women is derived from DHEA. Human production of DHEA normally peaks during a person's mid-20s and then begins a steady, progressive decline.

DHEA is only produced in the bodies of humans and other primates such as monkeys and apes. There are no good dietary sources of DHEA other than supplementation. Commercially available doses range from 5-200mg. However, doctors have been known to request compounding pharmacists to prepare DHEA prescriptions for patients in doses ranging from 5-200mg per capsule. Men usually take higher doses than women. The most common dosage for DHEA is 25mg daily but ideally doses should be individualized as recommended by a health practioner.

Recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers investigated the effects of DHEA supplementation on abdominal fat and insulin levels in the elderly. Previous animal studies have shown that DHEA can reduce abdominal fat and help in insulin resistance. This small study involved 56 participants aged 65 to 78 years, who had low levels of DHEA. The active group received 50 mg of DHEA while the control group received placebo. Researchers recorded changes in abdominal fat and glucose and insulin for 6 months. Of the participants, 52 completed the study. Compared to the placebo group, those taking DHEA had reductions in abdominal fat. DHEA supplementation also increased insulin sensitivity. Although this was a small study, the authors concluded that, “DHEA replacement could play a role in prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome associated with abdominal obesity.”1


1. Dennis T, et al. Effect of DHEA on Abdominal Fat and Insulin Action in Elderly Women and Men. JAMA. Nov 2004;292(18):2243-2248.