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DHEA levels and longevity

BORDEAUX, FRANCE. DHEAS (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate) is a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal gland and is the precursor of androgens (male sex hormones) and estrogens. Several studies have shown that DHEA and DHEAS levels decline with age and this has lead to speculation that there might be a connection between DHEA levels and longevity. Researchers at the University of Bordeaux have just released the results of a study aimed at clarifying this point. The study involved 595 volunteers (253 men and 342 women) over the age of 65 years when first enrolled in 1988. A year after enrollment the volunteers had blood samples drawn for analysis of DHEAS levels. This analysis was repeated for 290 subjects (119 men and 171 women) after an additional seven years.

The researchers conclude that DHEA levels tend to decline by an average of 2.3 per cent per year for men and 3.9 per cent for women. However, they noted an increase in about 30 per cent of the subjects. They found no correlation between DHEAS levels and functional, psychological or mental status or between DHEAS levels and mortality in women. However, in men low DHEAS levels were associated with a 1.9 times higher risk of death. This association was particularly pronounced in men under 70 years of age (a 6.5 times greater mortality) and in male smokers (a 6.7 times greater mortality). The researchers conclude that DHEA supplementation may be beneficial for both current and former male smokers.

Dr. Samuel Yen of the University of California concurs with this recommendation and points out that DHEA should be taken before bedtime to simulate the circadian rise of DHEA secretion at night. He also points out that several other studies have found DHEA supplementation to be beneficial in women with low levels and in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.
Mazat, Lise, et al. Prospective measurements of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in a cohort of elderly subjects: relationship to gender, subjective health, smoking habits, and 10-year mortality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 98, No. 14, July 3, 2001, pp. 8145-50
Yen, Samuel S.C. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and longevity: new clues for an old friend. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 98, No. 15, July 17, 2001, pp. 8167-69 (commentary)

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