DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), the popular hormone widely sold as a nutritional supplement to fight conditions from cancer to aging, does in fact have a beneficial effect on the vascular function of the heart, a new University of California San Francisco study shows.
Though there has been limited scientific basis for claims that DHEA is a potent anti-disease and anti-aging drug, the new study, which will be presented today (Nov. 10) at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Dallas, shows that DHEA does protect the heart against some cardiovascular diseases.
Scientists suspect DHEA -- which is synthesized by our own bodies, is converted into the hormones estrogen and testosterone and decreases sharply with age -- does indeed have a link to conditions including aging, heart disease and cancer, said UCSF cardiology research fellow Christian Zellner, MD, who conducted the study under the direction of UCSF Stanford Health Care cardiologists Tony Chou, MD, UCSF assistant professor of medicine, and Kanu Chatterjee, MD, UCSF professor of medicine, at UCSF's Vascular Lab.
Researchers at medical centers across the country are investigating a number of DHEA-related issues, including DHEA?s role in brain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus. Some of the lingering questions also include why only humans and primates manufacture the hormone and why it diminishes sharply with age.
This study, part of UCSF's continuing research of DHEA's effects on cardiovascular health, is an important step in giving scientific credence to the role and benefits of DHEA, Zellner said. The research is also a step in understanding any possible untoward effects on individuals who take the drug with high hopes of beating aging and disease, Zellner said. That is important, he said, because an increasing number of people are taking DHEA, yet its sale is unregulated by the FDA.