DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is the most abundant steroid found in the human bloodstream. It is also one of the most reliable bio-markers of aging and millions of people take DHEA supplements on a regular basis.
In fact, replacement of low levels of DHEA through regular supplementation with DHEA capsules has been popular for the last 20 years or so by individuals wanting to slow down the aging process and improve quality of life.
However, alternative delivery forms of DHEA supplementation, including liquid DHEA formulations sprayed under the tongue or on the skin for faster absorption, have become increasingly popular.
While capsule supplementation of DHEA is still very effective, there are some benefits to the new liquid delivery systems. For example, capsule DHEA supplementation must first be processed through the small intestine and the liver where it is catalyzed by sulfotransferase and converted to dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate or DHEA sulfate. For the most part, DHEA sulfate is inactive while circulating in blood plasma. It becomes active when it comes in contact with a specific cell or tissue that “needs” it. Consequently, the sulfate is removed and it is then converted to other healthy hormones.
Thus, liquid DHEA, which can be absorbed through the mucus membrane in the mouth or very rapidly through the skin, avoids the liver and the conversion to DHEA sulphate, allowing for quicker utilization by the body.
Additionally, smaller dosages can be used with liquid DHEA compared to the capsule form. That’s a benefit since too much DHEA can sometimes be converted into estrogen or other undesirable hormones.
And while liquid DHEA delivery systems really seem to be taking off, the real reason for DHEA’s popularity—be it in capsule or liquid form—are the numerous anti-aging and disease prevention health benefits it provides.
Health benefits of DHEA supplementation
DHEA is secreted by the adrenal glands, and produced in the gonads (testes and ovaries), and brain. It is sometimes called the “mother of all hormones” because it is the building block from which estrogen and testosterone are produced, and is vital to health.
DHEA has been reported to have anti-diabetic, anti-dementia, anti-obesity, anti-carcinogenic, anti-stress, immune-enhancing, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, anti-aging and anti-heart disease effects.1,2,3
In addition, research has shown that DHEA:
- Is an antioxidant and decreases cholesterol
- Is a hormone regulator (it helps regulate the thyroid & pituitary glands, and enhances thymus gland function)
- Stimulates the production of hu- man growth hormone
- Boosts immunity by stimulating killer cell activity
- Increases the sensitivity of cells to insulin
- Assists in returning the body to
- a balanced state after a stress reaction
- Improves cognitive function, bone formation and libido
- Enhances mood by increasing the brain’s serotonin levels
One of DHEA’s most over-looked, but vital roles may be its ability to counter-balance cortisol when DHEA is low, cortisol levels are high and vice-versa. Cortisol, one of the few hormones that usually increase with age, induces stress. And when it circulates at high levels for long periods of time it may affect many bodily functions, including damaging insulin resistance and the endocrine system, and the hypothalamus. Maintaining healthy levels of DHEA for aging and stressed individuals may be its most important role due to its ability to lower cortisol levels.4,5
DHEA levels decrease with age
Your DHEA levels vary throughout your life, and naturally decline as you get older. We produce large amounts of DHEA when we’re young, and research shows that children’s brains require a significant amount of DHEA to grow and develop. DHEA levels peak at age 25 and decline at a rate of about 2% a year, thereafter. It isn’t until the mid-forties, however, that we being to feel the effects of lower DHEA levels. By age 80, most people’s DHEA blood levels are only about 15% of where they were during their 20s. By the time we’re 90, DHEA levels are down to 5%.6 According to Michael Galitzer, M.D., co-founder of the American Health Institute in Los Angeles, California, symptoms of a DHEA deficiency include poor memory, poor resistance to noise, anxiety, decreased libido (especially in women), decreased armpit and pubic hair, and dry skin, eyes or hair.7
Very low levels of DHEA have been linked to cardiovascular disease in men, some cancers, trauma, and stress; low levels are also associated with old age, particularly in the unwell, institutionalized elderly. Research has also shown a correlation between low DHEA levels and a declining immune system. Also, Alzheimer patients have exhibited low DHEA levels, when compared to their healthy counterparts.
Other factors that contribute to decreased DHEA levels:
- nutritional imbalances
- a vegetarian diet low in cholesterol and healthy fats8
Powerful anti-aging tool—in liquid or capsule form
Clearly, you don’t want your DHEA levels to get to low. DHEA supplementation can be a safe, effective way to increase your energy, improve your mood, and protect your immune system and brain cells. And whether you choose capsule DHEA supplementation or one of the new fast acting liquid DHEA products, you are sure to find that DHEA is one of the most powerful tools for slowing down the aging process and maintaining health and longevity.
- Rudman, D. et al (1990) “Plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in nursing home men” J Ann Geriatr Soc 38: 421-27
- Kalimi, M. et al (1994) “Anti-glucocorticoid effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)” Molec Cell Biochem 131: 99-104
- Regelson, W. & Kalimi, M. (1994) “Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – the multifunctional steroid” Ann NY Acad Sci 719: 564-75.
- Sears, B. The Anti-Aging Zone. NY: Regan Brooks. 1999.
- Dilman, V. & Dean, W. The Neuroendocrine Theory of Aging and Degenerative Disease. Pensacola: Center for Bio-Gerontology. 1992.
- Regelson, William, M.D., & Colman, Carol. The Superhormone Promise. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
- Alternative Medicine, edited by Trivieri, Larry, Jr. & Anderson, John W., Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA. 2002.