DHEA: Natural Youth Serum?
by Nikki Smith
Dehydroepiandrosterone (better known as DHEA, among many other names) could be the missing link to a long, fulfilling, and healthy life. Naturally produced by the human body in the adrenal gland and the reproductive organs (and in microscopic amounts: the brain), this hormone acts as a converter/precursor for testosterone and oestradiol. The hormone is also found in wild yams in North America, the substance that the artificial hormone is made from. Being a steroid, this is the hormone that “determines” the level of masculinity in men and the femininity of women in terms of voice cadence, body hair, and muscle definition. The natural level peaks in the 20s age range and gradually decreases with the aging process. It has been scientifically proven that people with lower DHEA levels have a shorter average lifespan than those with normal levels. Taking a supplement for the hormone could prevent losing 10% per decade of the secretion. What if taking supplements of this naturally depleting hormone could prevent symptoms of aging?
Modern medicine is suggesting just that. While there is no definitive proof by medical evaluation (yet), there are multiple cases of DHEA supplementation treating obesity, depression, and multiple bone and muscle problems. People with lower natural DHEA levels usually suffer from an affliction such as AIDS/HIV, osteoporosis, immune disorders, or hormone disorders. Studies have shown that a noticeable health improvement has been recorded when these people are treated with DHEA. If the hormone could help these people, who some consider to be beyond medical help, could it really fight off the natural effects of aging? If DHEA is something that our body naturally needs to remain youthful and we naturally lose it, why wouldn’t we just… put it back?
Treatment with Dehydroepiandrosterone has been shown to increase sexual function in adults and rebuild muscle mass where it has been lost. This suggests to researches that the hormone could have a multitude of effects on the human body in terms of strength, health, sex life, and lifespan. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging has already proven that men with higher levels of the hormone live longer than their less-equipped counterparts, but what does it mean?
This hormone has the ability to fight the human body’s natural decay. Where muscles usually break down and shrivel, this hormone causes the complete rebuilding of strength in a 25 year old. If natural amounts in the body can do that, why couldn’t a supplementation in an older human have the same effects? Modern medicine suggests that DHEA has the ability to improve memory and sexual function among the elderly, as well as increased youthful appearance, younger looking skin, physical strength, and the ability to complete everyday activities with grace while we age.
We now have the ability to grasp all of these benefits by simply replacing something that naturally depletes in the body. It is unknown if the loss of DHEA is from environmental factors, heredity, lifestyle, or a combination of all. However, taking this supplement could render these factors irrelevant across the scope of our species. Instead of losing 10% of the natural levels of DHEA in the body by age 35, the body would still perform as if it was in the mid-twenties. The mind would retain the information necessary to increase longevity and health throughout the 90s. Definitive proof will be a long time coming, but there is definite scientific and well-researched evidence to suggest that DHEA could be called “fountain of youth” of sorts. The side effects of taking the yam-produced hormone are noted few and far between and consist of things such a dry or oily skin; such a small price to pay for the possible “elixir of life”.
Technically, there are no foods that contain DHEA. But certain foods such as soybeans and wild yams may encourage the body to yield more DHEA, if it is needed. As stated above, wild yams are used to produce synthetic DHEA supplements. But if the body has produced enough DHEA on its own, it will not continue production, despite what you’re giving it. This is a yet another cool feature of the body, keeping things under control. Certain foods like omega-3 fatty acids can help your body make better use its naturally produced DHEA.
It can never be stated enough the importance of sleep, especially in regard to adrenal function. Poor sleep reduces proper adrenal function and DHEA levels. Coincidentally, it is proper levels of DHEA that aids the body in getting REM sleep. What the?
This is why a healthy diet is paramount.
It is believed that DHEA supplementation is quite safe, especially when used for a few months at a time.
However, some studies suggest that DHEA supplementation can be harmful, especially in high doses. It is thought that DHEA may form androgenic and estrogenic hormones via an alternate metabolic pathway causing adverse and unwanted effects.
Many recommend supplementing with 7-keto instead of DHEA. 7-Keto is a by-product of Dehydroepiandrosterone, which is naturally produced in the body. 7-Keto is believed to have the same benefits of DHEA, but its action is very different. 7-Keto does not get broken down into sex hormones.
Many believe this to be much safer. Either way, I recommend limited supplementation and encourage being tested regularly for hormone levels.