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Is DHEA an effective anti-aging treatment?

Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is present in huge quantities in both men and women. To fully understand this hormone, one must know that many chemically similar types of hormones exist in the body. Some are understood and some aren't. The hormones are made in the ovaries and testes, but can be converted to other hormonally active compounds in the brain, thyroid, heart, liver, adrenal glands, gastrointestinal tract, fat, bone, and even skin.

DHEA is an example of a prohormone, a substance that is converted by the body into other more active hormones. Because DHEA levels decline beginning in a person's early 20s, some people think it is a "youth hormone." On a simple level, this makes sense. If a hormone is present when we are young and declines as we age, some think that its replacement may slow aging. Once again, this very simple approach is the one the less-than-honest doctors take. In actuality, the interactions of this hormone with other hormones and tissues in the body are so complex that they are mind-boggling. Only endocrinologists and physiologists truly understand this field. And they state that we don't know enough to be administering hormones to patients. The more than eight thousand DHEA studies in the medical literature report various findings. Many of the studies are poorly done and some are frankly bogus. Side effects such as acne, hair growth in women, loss of scalp hair, mood changes, irregular heart rhythms, and an increase in breast and prostate cancer are possible. Unfortunately, the complex nature of this drug and its possible side effects render its administration dangerous. Also, DHEA has been shown to not improve muscle mass or strength in 60- to 80-year-old men and women. But that doesn't stop the erroneous advertisements.

One of the problems in dealing with over-the-counter medications such as DHEA is the lack of uniformity in their production. DHEA is classified as a food supplement, not a drug. As such, it escapes close Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scrutiny. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed huge variation among manufacturers in the actual doses of DHEA. Some did not include enough DHEA to be effective, some had too much.
Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

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Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

The public’s recent exuberance toward cosmetic surgery has spurred an unprecedented demand for appearance-changing procedures. But how can an average consumer discern the hype from solid truth? ...