Sunday, April 14, 2013

DHEA, Sex Hormone Production, Bone Density

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is used by the body to produce male and female sex hormones, aid in bone density, and support general feelings of well-being and energy.

DHEA levels decrease dramatically with age, with people at 70 having only 20% of the levels they had in their 20s. Add chronic stress, which depletes the adrenal glands, and many people can end up with critically-low DHEA levels even in their 40s. And, low DHEA levels are not just about vanity and anti-aging concerns.

Low DHEA levels have been correlated with many chronic disease states, including: anorexia, depression, bone density problems, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, schizophrenia, chronic fatigue, lupus, and erectile dysfunction in men under age 60.

Boosting declining DHEA levels has been associated not only with easing menopausal symptoms and improving sex lives of women.  Men use DHEA to build muscle mass, improve energy, and as a cheaper alternative to those little blue pills (but the research doesn't actually support this latter aim). Did you know that DHEA boosts testosterone more than estrogen in women and estrogen more than testosterone in men? Think of DHEA as balancing what needs balancing.

Quality Control. A number of medical resources (WebMD among them) caution people, as DHEA supplements have been found to have quality control problems. Alas, this problem is far-flung, with many, many more supplements other than DHEA being affected by loose quality control practices. This industry drives me crazy sometimes but that's another story.

Why, then, do I mention DHEA quality control, in particular then? Because DHEA is a "parent hormone" or a precursor to the male and female hormones, which promote youthful bodies but also must be balanced properly. It's one thing to get too much of a water-soluble vitamin and quite another to be taking too much of a hormone that drives production of both estrogen and testosterone.

My recommendation is to be careful where you buy DHEA and make sure the company has a good quality program to ensure you know what you are getting. Also know that "natural" sources of DHEA, such as wild yam and soy, are not converted in the body; they must first be converted in a laboratory into the form of DHEA that your body can use.

Finally, when it comes to daily amounts, a range between 15-75mg is used with 25-50mg being most common. Write to me about your experiences with DHEA.

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