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DHEA Improves Insulin Action & Reduces Abdominal Fat

Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that is a precursor to the male sex hormone testosterone and the female sex hormone estrogen. But unlike these hormones, DHEA is not regulated by the FDA and is easily attainable on the Internet and over the counter. DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands, and its blood levels begin steadily declining early in adulthood.

As some of you may know, one of my early mentors, Dr. Gary Oberg, earlier this year encouraged me to study hormone therapy again as he felt I was missing out on a useful tool and boy was he right. For the last three months I have been checking serum levels of DHEA in over half of my patients and I have learned that nearly all the men and half of the women I check would benefit from DHEA. I myself had levels that were less than 20 percent of what they should have been and am currently taking DHEA replacement therapy.

By the age of 70, a person will produce only about 20 percent as much of the hormone as was produced in the late teens or early 20s. For this reason, a growing number of elderly people are taking DHEA supplements, often without medical supervision. It has been touted as a "superhormone" and the fountain of youth, and now research offers more evidence that DHEA replacement may help protect against several diseases linked to aging.

While I am a great fan of DHEA, I have to tell you that I am not at all in favor of it being available without a prescription. Although it is likely most of you reading this would benefit from taking it, one has to be very careful in using it as it may cause more problems than it solves. I am convinced that women should not take DHEA unless they are also using bioidentical estrogen and progesterone therapy. There also needs to be very careful attention to making sure the dose is carefully adjusted. Most women should not be on more than 15 mg of DHEA a day.

While men have much greater leeway with DHEA it can also be highly problematic and actually increase the risk of prostate cancer if one is not careful. DHEA can easily be converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which can cause male pattern baldness and increase the risk of prostate cancer. There are a number of powerful hormonal inhibitors of DHT that need to be carefully considered with the use of DHEA and some natural lifestyle modifications.

I am currently in the process of editing a book by one of the world's top endocrinologists, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe. He is a fourth generation physician and an international teacher in this field. We hope to publish his book early next year. It is the definitive professional guide to the use of bioidentical therapy and has information from nearly 100 years of clinical experience all the way back to his great grandfather.

I look forward to sharing more about this exciting treatment in the future as my time allows.

JAMA November 10, 2004;292:2243-2248

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