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LE Magazine June 2007
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Congress Seeks to Ban DHEA


By William Faloon

A bill has been introduced in Congress that would classify DHEA as an “anabolic steroid drug” and thus make it illegal for Americans to obtain.

DHEA, however, is not an anabolic steroid drug. It is a natural hormone that declines as people mature past the age of 30.

Low DHEA levels have been related with degenerative conditions associated with aging.1-28 A large volume of published scientific studies reveals that supplemental DHEA can provide unique health benefits.29-62

For more than a decade, DHEA has been sold as a dietary supplement. The availability of DHEA supplements has enabled many aging Americans to avoid the risks associated with declining DHEA levels. It is in the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies to have DHEA banned so that aging people will have to rely instead on expensive prescription drugs.

If Congress is persuaded by drug lobbyists to outlaw DHEA supplements, more Americans will become vulnerable to declining DHEA levels, resulting in an economic bonanza for pharmaceutical companies.

In this report, we expose shocking facts behind this new attack on DHEA so that citizens will be armed with the information they need to dissuade Congress from prohibiting this lifesaving hormone.

On March 5, 2007, legislation was introduced that would add dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, to the list of anabolic steroids that are classified as controlled substances under the Anabolic Steroid Control Act.63

DHEA, a natural hormone, does not function like muscle-building anabolic steroid drugs. In fact, no scientific studies indicate that DHEA increases muscle mass in young men with already-adequate DHEA levels.

To frighten the public into thinking that DHEA poses a danger, a blatantly false press release is now circulating in Congress. Here is an excerpt from this press release:“Like all steroids, DHEA has a number of potential long-term physical and psychological effects, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, liver damage, severe acne, baldness, dramatic mood swings, and aggression.” 64

As you will read next, these allegations are totally inconsistent with the scientific literature. Even more disturbing is that a basis for this new attack on DHEA comes from those who have a huge financial interest in turning DHEA into an expensive prescription drug.

DHEA Protects Against Heart Disease—It Does Not Cause It!

Drugs to prevent and treat heart disease generate more profit for pharmaceutical companies than any other class of medication. The use of DHEA as a dietary supplement has been increasing as new studies reveal that DHEA might reduce heart attack risk.7-10,12,26,27,65-69 Pharmaceutical companies thus face huge economic losses if too many Americans use low-cost DHEA supplements and reduce their reliance on expensive cardiac drugs.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of loss faced by drug companies, a study published in October 2006 showed that higher DHEA levels resulted in improved ejection fractions (a measurement of the heart’s pumping capacity) and lower levels of a blood marker that indicates serious congestive heart failure.26

This same study analyzed the relationship of DHEA, free testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) to mortality in men suffering from chronic heart failure. The chart below reveals the startling results when these three hormones were correlated with three-year survival:

Hormone Status Three-Year Survival
Rate
High levels of
DHEA, testosterone,
and IGF-1
83%
Deficiency in one
hormone (DHEA,
testosterone
, or IGF-1)
74%
Deficiency in two
hormones (DHEA,
testosterone
, or IGF-1)
55%
Deficiency in all
three hormones (DHEA,
testosterone
, and IGF-1)
27%

The doctors who conducted this study concluded that a deficiency in any of these hormones is “an independent marker of poor prognosis.”

Based on this one study alone, pharmaceutical companies stand to earn billions of dollars of additional profits from cardiac drugs if Congress bans DHEA supplements.

Pharmaceutical lobbying has already curtailed Americans’ access to inexpensive ways to boost testosterone and IGF-1, though certain nutrients have been shown to boost IGF-1 and testosterone in some studies.53,68,70

Cardiac Dangers Associated with Low DHEA

Epidemiological studies show that low levels of DHEA in men correlate with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The Massachusetts Male Aging Study followed 1,700 men between the ages of 40 and 70 for nine years. The authors found that men in the lowest quartile of serum DHEA at baseline were 60% more likely to develop ischemic heart disease, suggesting a valuable role for DHEA in averting the nation’s leading cause of death.9

Additionally, higher DHEA levels seem to positively affect endothelial cell signaling, which could have important implications for avoiding heart disease. In a subset of men from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, levels of hormones (including DHEA) were measured and correlated with arterial stiffness (using ultrasound imaging of the carotid arteries). Men with higher levels of testosterone and DHEA had less stiffness of the arteries, indicating a decreased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.65

A similar link between low serum DHEA levels and greater risk for carotid artery disease was demonstrated last year in a study of young women with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.71

Sen. Hatch to Oppose DHEA Ban

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who was instrumental in the passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) and remains one of Congress’ staunchest advocates of health freedom, told Life Extension that he opposes S. 762 and other efforts to re-classify DHEA as an anabolic steroid.

According to Hatch, the proposed legislation “specifically overturns the exemption we made for DHEA.” The senator notes that DHEA was exempted from the list of banned anabolic steroids under DSHEA because “there is no evidence that DHEA has posed any health problem.”

“In fact, [DHEA] is being used safely by many Americans who recognize its potential,” says Sen. Hatch. “I’ll be working to make certain the Senate does not pass this unwise bill.”

A study in animals in 2006 shed further light on how DHEA promotes cardiovascular health.66 Researchers fed young and old female mice a daily DHEA supplement. After 60 days of treatment, the investigators measured the stiffness of the test animals’ left ventricle, the heart’s major pumping chamber. The DHEA-supplemented older mice had decreased left ventricular stiffness compared to the non-supplemented older animals.

The scientists concluded that DHEA supplementation is capable of reversing the left ventricular stiffness that accompanies aging, thus promoting youthful structure and function in the heart’s tissues.

Another animal study simulated the depressed cardiovascular function (shock) that follows major trauma.72 In response to administration of a DHEA metabolite, the depression of cardiovascular function and organ blood flow induced by shock was reversed. The dangerous inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), which had been elevated in the state of simulated shock, was also reduced by this DHEA metabolite. The investigators concluded that treatment with this metabolite could be valuable in restoring cardiovascular function and correcting abnormal cytokine levels.

Furthermore, investigators determined that DHEA injected directly into the coronary arteries of pigs produced acute dilation of the blood vessels, with associated increases in coronary blood flow.67

DHEA Protects Against Atherogenic Risk Factors

A number of studies indicate that DHEA helps protect aging adults against atherosclerosis and its life-threatening consequences, such as coronary artery dis-ease.7-10,26,27,31,32,65,68,69,73-75 Several mechanisms of action may account for these benefits.

In a controlled trial, 24 older men orally ingested 50 mg of DHEA or a placebo at bedtime for two months. The researchers then measured arterial dilation and blood flow. While the placebo-treated subjects had no changes in any of the parameters measured, the DHEA-treated men experienced increased levels of a substance that helps blood vessels to dilate, as well as decreasing levels of a marker for blood clotting. They also had lower levels of artery-clogging low-density lipoprotein (LDL) after treatment than did the controls. Based on the beneficial effects of short-term DHEA treatment, the researchers concluded that long-term DHEA supplementation may prevent atherosclerotic changes caused by falling levels of vessel-dilating biochemicals.68

Of the many tactics that can be deployed to increase one’s life span, supplementing with DHEA seems particularly beneficial, as new findings imply that higher levels of DHEA are associated with a longer life span.4

Scientists recently examined data on nearly 1,000 older Taiwanese adults to determine the relationship between DHEA levels and three-year mortality risk.

At the study’s end three years later, the data analysis revealed that participants with lower DHEA levels had a 64% greater risk of death than did individuals with higher DHEA levels. The study authors concluded that lower levels of DHEA have a notable effect in increasing mortality risk, and that optimal DHEA levels may help to promote longevity.4

The press release attacking DHEA that is now circulating in Congress states that DHEA use is associated with heart disease. This is a blatantly false allegation, as can be clearly seen by examining published scientific studies showing that DHEA most likely protects against heart disease.7-9, 26,27,65-69

Higher DHEA Levels Tied to Lower Mortality Risk

Of the many tactics that can be deployed to increase one’s life span, supplementing with DHEA seems particularly beneficial, as new findings imply that higher levels of DHEA are associated with a longer life span.4

Scientists recently examined data on nearly 1,000 older Taiwanese adults to determine the relationship between DHEA levels and three-year mortality risk.

At the study’s end three years later, the data analysis revealed that participants with lower DHEA levels had a 64% greater risk of death than did individuals with higher DHEA levels. The study authors concluded that lower levels of DHEA have a notable effect in increasing mortality risk, and that optimal DHEA levels may help to promote longevity.4

The press release attacking DHEA that is now circulating in Congress states that DHEA use is associated with heart disease. This is a blatantly false allegation, as can be clearly seen by examining published scientific studies showing that DHEA most likely protects against heart disease.7-9, 26,27,65-69

DHEA Protects the Brain—It Does Not Cause Stroke!

DHEA is especially abundant in the human brain. Many earlier stud-ies reported a protective effect of DHEA against the deterioration of mental function with aging.21,51,56-58,76-81 Those stricken with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, for instance, have lower levels of DHEA.79,80 A recent Canadian study found that rats implanted with a high dose of DHEA showed significantly less hippocampal damage after stroke was induced (88% injured neurons in the placebo group compared to only 60% in those given DHEA).81

It has been demonstrated that DHEA markedly inhibits the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and IL-6 in glial cells.82 The ability to lower the levels of these inflammatory mediators may be an important part of the neuroprotective mechanism of DHEA.

In addition, DHEA has been shown to protect against the toxicity of the amyloid-beta protein and excess glutamate.76 Treatment with glutamate produced a copious increase in the neuronal glucocorticoid receptor. Treatment with DHEA reversed this increase, demonstrating the anti-glucocorticoid action of DHEA.

A study conducted in Cambridge, England, compared DHEA and cortisol levels in clinically depressed patients (categorized as “major depressives”) with a matched group of patients in remission from depression and healthy controls.21 Both morning and evening levels of DHEA were lowest in depressed patients. Depressed patients showed low DHEA relative to high cortisol levels (similar to the ratio shift seen in aging). The authors point out that DHEA not only protects against harmful effects of excess cortisol, but also may have mood-improving properties and that this may have “significant implications” for the treatment of depression.52,83-92

DHEA’s ability to protect the hippocampus and enhance its activity is important in regard to Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have generally found increased cortisol and lower DHEA in Alzheimer’s disease patients.80 Excess cortisol damages the hippocampus and potentiates amyloid-beta toxicity.80 DHEA is believed to be able to antagonize the destructive effects of excess cortisol.83,93,94

The authors of a recent study have concluded that dementia is correlated with low DHEA more so than with high cortisol.80 Another study also showed that while normal aging results in decreased DHEA levels, victims of dementia have even lower levels of DHEA than do the healthy elderly.95

DHEA is protective against a wide range of neurological disorders.21,51,52,56-58,76-78,80,81,96-98 DHEA has never been shown to increase stroke risk, as the bogus press release circulating in Congress alleges.

Congress Seeks To Ban DHEA: What You Need to Know
  • A bill recently introduced in Congress would classify the popular supplement dehydroepiandroesterone (DHEA) as an anabolic steroid drug. If the proposed bill becomes law, DHEA would be regulated as a controlled substance and would no longer be readily available as a nutritional supplement.
  • DHEA is not an anabolic steroid drug, but rather a natural hormone that is essential for good health. Since DHEA levels in the human body decline after the age of 30, many people rely on DHEA supplements to combat diseases associated with aging.
    A wealth of research demonstrates that optimal DHEA levels can help protect against heart disease, cognitive decline, and premature death.
  • Those seeking to ban DHEA claim
    that it causes many adverse effects in the body, including mood swings and liver toxicity. However, no substantial scientific evidence exists to support these claims; in fact, in the more than 10 years that DHEA has been available as a dietary supplement, there have been no reports of serious adverse health effects related to DHEA.
  • If DHEA becomes a controlled substance, Americans will have lost a valuable weapon for averting the diseases of aging. To preserve your freedom to use DHEA and other dietary supplements, contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to vote against Senate bill S.762 and House bill H.R.1249.

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