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Abdominal fat decreases, insulin action improves when elderly take hormone

St. Louis, Nov. 5, 2004 -- In a six-month study of elderly people, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) significantly reduced abdominal fat and improved insulin action. This finding suggests that DHEA may be able to counter the increase in abdominal fat and accompanying increased risk for diabetes that very often occurs as we grow older.

The study was conducted by Dennis T. Villareal, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and John O. Holloszy, M.D., professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics and nutritional sciences. Their results will be reported in the Nov. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands. In humans, levels of DHEA peak at about age 20 and then gradually decline. By the time we are 70, we have only about 20 percent of the peak amount circulating in the body. The decline in DHEA has been associated with the deleterious effects of aging, according to the researchers.

Studies in rats conducted by Holloszy demonstrated that DHEA replacement has a protective effect against both the insulin resistance induced by a high-fat diet and the decrease in insulin responsiveness that occurs with advancing age.

"Earlier human studies indicated DHEA supplementation improved bone density and a sense of well-being," Villareal says. "In this study, we wanted to test whether our findings in the rat studies would hold true in people. We investigated whether DHEA could reverse some of the metabolic complications of aging if DHEA levels in elderly people were returned to the levels of their youth."

Volunteers ranged in age from 65 to 78, with an average age of 71, and the group was composed of 28 women and 28 men. Half of the patients were randomly assigned to receive a placebo while the other half received 50 milligrams of DHEA daily. The six-month study was double-blind: neither patien
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Contact: Gwen Ericson
ericsong@wustl.edu
314-286-0141
Washington University School of Medicine
9-Nov-2004


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