DHEA – The mother hormone

February 1, 2007

San Diego - The hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), also known as the mother of all hormones, is the precursor of androgens and estrogens and is tagged by some physicians as a wonder drug when supplements are taken for certain disease states and in certain doses.

San Diego - The hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), also known as the mother of all hormones, is the precursor of androgens and estrogens and is tagged by some physicians as a wonder drug when supplements are taken for certain disease states and in certain doses.

For years, DHEA has been the cause of heated debate among medical professionals concerning its use in various human ailments.

The Food and Drug Administration upgraded DHEA to a dietary supplement in 1994, but is still not sure where to place this relatively unknown, yet potentially very helpful "drug."

Support

DHEA got its positive spin from very successful results seen in murine experiments, where daily supplements showed a prevention or delay in the onset of cancer, a "hardening" of the arteries, influence on lethal viral infections, a lowered immunity, obesity and diabetes.

Though rodents may produce approximately 1/10,000 the amount of DHEA humans do, many physicians would agree that the results the study produced cannot be ignored and that DHEA could have similar positive results in humans.

"DHEA is the most abundant steroid hormone our body produces. Though the complete positive potential of DHEA is still not completely understood, low levels of the hormone have been associated with obesity, type II diabetes, immune dysfunction, autoimmune disease, cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression and loss of well-being, cognitive dysfunction, a low libido and erectile dysfunction as well as osteoporosis. It behooves us as medical professionals to recognize its benefits in anti-aging medicine," Dr. Rothenberg tells Dermatology Times.

He explains that DHEA supplements can positively affect the immune system by counteracting the glucocorticoid effects on monocytes and by increasing the production of T-cells.

Science behind the argument

He explains the positive use of DHEA with glucocorticosteroids.

"ACTH stimulates the release of cortisol and DHEA from the adrenal cortex. The catabolic effects of glucocorticosteroids are counteracted by the anabolic effects of DHEA. Specifically, DHEA ameliorates some of the deleterious effects of glucocorticosteroids (which may include) diabetes, amino acid deamination, fattiness, hypertension and susceptibility to viraemia. Also, decreased levels of DHEA are seen in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus," Dr. Rothenberg says.

He cites a study by Barry, McGuire and von Vollenhoven, where the relationship between dosage, serum levels and clinical response of DHEA was tested on patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Statistically significant improvements were found in all lupus outcomes over a six month therapy. Here, optimal serum levels of DHEA were found to be 1,000 mcg/dl. In a similar study by Nordmark where the effects of DHEA were tested on female patients with SLE, results showed that patients treated with 20 mg to 30 mg of DHEA had a significantly improved quality of life.

Dr. Rothenberg says that DHEA can be very helpful in patients with an inflammatory arthritis. He cites other studies where DHEA was proven to be a potent inhibitor of interleukin-6 (IL-6) as well as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), and that DHEA was significantly lower in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases.

"Studies have shown that DHEA may be necessary for an immune response. In my opinion, patients taking corticosteroids should have DHEA replacement to maintain a balance. Furthermore, DHEA strongly inhibits IL-6 and chronic inflammation, implicating that its use can be very helpful in treating various inflammatory dermatoses," Dr. Rothenberg says.