DHEA: For a Leaner Body and Longevity
DHEA (dehyroepiandrosterone) is produced by the adrenal glands and is the most abundant steroid hormone in the body. It acts as a precursor to producing other steroid hormones (steroid just means it came from a sterol such as cholesterol) such as progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. At one time it was thought that DHEA’s function was just as a “mother hormone” on the pathway to producing other hormones, without any other specific actions of its own. But after over 40 years of research on DHEA, we now know of the powerful effects it has on its own. DHEA’s powerful effects are thought to come from its ability to stimulate protein synthesis in the body, which has a wide range of positive effects.
DHEA has become known as an “Anti-Aging” hormone because of an association with longevity. This connection came from researchers that showed a link between how much DHEA someone has and morbidity and mortality rates. Two main influences were found to prolong life: caloric restriction and the levels of DHEA present. Lower levels of DHEA were found to be associated with a shorter lifespan.
DHEA also has a powerful positive effect on lowering insulin levels in insulin resistance, (also known as metabolic syndrome) and in lowering cholesterol and reducing body fat, all potential good effects for preventing heart disease. It has also been shown to enhance and support good immune function and to reduce the effects of stress by lowering excessive cortisol levels. So if supporting the adrenals is a priority, supplementing with DHEA can be very helpful to modulate and support proper cortisol output.
DHEA is still available as a dietary supplement and can be bought at health food stores or online retailers. However, it is extremely important to be sure that you obtain a good quality brand perhaps through your doctor’s recommendation, and also to be on the right dose. So before deciding to supplement DHEA, ask your functional medicine or naturopathic doctor, as those practitioners are most likely going to be familiar with where to obtain good quality supplements and can also expertly advise you on the best dose for you as an individual after testing your levels. Women should generally not be taking more than 10mg DHEA daily unless they have a severe deficiency on testing, and a micronized slow release form is always best.