DHEA: Anti-aging supplement has no benefit, study finds

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DHEA: Anti-aging supplement has no benefit, study finds

The popular anti-aging supplement DHEA has no benefits, according to a study.

What happened? The popular anti-aging supplement DHEA is of little value in preventing age-related bone and muscle changes, according to new research.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), taking supplements of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has no demonstrable benefit on muscle strength, peak endurance, bone mass, muscle mass, glucose tolerance or quality of life. The study was conducted by Mayo Clinic.

To arrive at its data and conclusions, the study evaluated a group of 87 men older than 60 and 57 women older than 60 over a two-year period. The people chosen in the study all had low DHEA levels prior to the study.

Taking DHEA did raise the study participants' DHEA to high normal levels. However, those higher levels did not result in significant body-composition measurements, peak volume of oxygen consumed per minute, muscle strength or glucose tolerance. The study reported no improvement for quality of life. No major adverse effects were observed from taking DHEA.

Men in the study also were given low doses of testosterone; that appeared to result in a small increase in bone density.

Your body converts DHEA into the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Proponents of DHEA say it also slows aging, increases muscle and bone strength, burns fats, improves cognition, bolsters immunity and protects against chronic diseases.

In an editorial accompanying the study results, NEJM recommended that because DHEA does show some benefit in people who have problems with their adrenal glands, it should be regulated as a drug and no longer considered a food supplement.

What does this mean to you? Prior research hasn't supported taking DHEA for anti-aging benefits. In fact, prior research has shown that DHEA carries risks and may cause side effects. This latest research confirms that taking DHEA does not provide benefits for body composition, physical performance or quality of life.

Last Updated: 10/19/2006
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