DHEA: dehydroepiandrosterone, produced by the adrenal glands from pregnenolone, is a precursor of estrogen and testosterone, steroid hormones having a powerful impact in our organism.
The DHEA level reaches its maximum around the age of 25 and then decreases regularly by 2% per year. At 80, our DHEA level is only 15% of that of our 25 year olds. The production of DHEA from pregnenolone is linked to the action of an enzyme which becomes inoperative during aging, which is why pregnenolone supplementation would be ineffective in the elderly to raise DHEA levels. .
DHEA enjoys in the United States – where it has been available over the counter for several years and is believed to be consumed daily by approximately 40 million Americans – from the status of “food substance derived from cholesterol” and is therefore considered a nutritional supplement. natural. After menopause or andropause, testosterone deficiency is common in both women and men. If the testosterone level is lowered, it is possible across the Atlantic to resort to hormonal supplementation or the intake of food precursors. In France, at present, DHEA supplementation is prohibited.
What effects can we expect from DHEA supplementation in the aging person? The improvement of the immune defences, the quality of the skin, the muscles and the bones as well as the drop in circulating cholesterol are the primary benefits. But its action on the nervous system suggests other benefits such as increased dynamism and the feeling of well-being, the strengthening of memory and the improvement of the quality of sleep. It should also be noted that taking DHEA increases the production of IGF-1, tissue growth factor linked to growth hormone; DHEA supplementation would therefore induce the same benefits as those observed with growth hormone.
What are the risks associated with DHEA supplementation? The risk of promoting prostate cancer has been mentioned, but recent studies are reassuring by indicating that the markers of prostate cell proliferation are normal. In addition, the tests carried out would show that there is no risk of accumulation in the body.
The US National Institutes of Health, however, warns potential consumers of the apparently harmful effects of DHEA supplements on the liver, even when consumed for only a short time.
Moreover, there are variations between individuals showing that from the same dose of DHEA, the levels of estrogen and testosterone synthesized are unpredictable. However, these hormones, when present in excess, lead to side effects of which we do not yet know all the consequences. The NIH points out that these hormones play a role in the development of prostate and breast cancers, and that too high a level of testosterone in women leads to abnormally abundant facial hair. How does supplementation work in practice? The recommended active dose is around 50 mg per day. It is done in oral or sub-lingual form.
Can you increase your DHEA level without using hormonal supplements?
To increase its DHEA level in the short term, hormonal supplementation seems to be the only recourse.
We sometimes hear that the diosgenin contained in wild yam (wild yam, also known as dioscorea) is a precursor to DHEA. This is true in the laboratory, but not in vivo, the human enzymatic equipment not being able to ensure this transformation. On the other hand, diosgenin is a substance with a hormonal mimetic action of estrogen, which is why yam extracts, like soy extracts, are recommended to fight against menopausal disorders. The hypothesis that the consumption of foods or food extracts rich in phytoestrogens can have a stimulating effect on the adrenal glands, causing in the long term a production of DHEA higher than that observable in a control group consuming no no phytoestrogens remains to be confirmed.
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