DHEA supplements

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a supplementthat is frequently marketed to persons interested in anti-aging. Newsletters and ads encourage its use - especially for retarding age associated brain decline (cognitive function). But savvy elders want to know if the scientific research really supports the claims made for this supplement before they pay out money for the latest 'anti-aging miracle'.

How does dehydropiandrosterone rate? What does the scientific research show?

There have been many of research studies. In fact there have been so many studies that scientists at the Division of Clinical Gerontology at Oxford University decided to review all of them to find out what could be concluded from them.

The Oxford University scientists said that they started their study because of there was a possibility for beneficial effects of DHEA in "retarding age-associated deterioration in cognitive function".

Here is information about their study: how it was conducted, what they found and the conclusions of the authors. Everythign given here is taken from the abstract published by the researchers Evans J. Grimley, R. Malous, F Huppert and JK Van Niekerk in October of 2006.

Objectives "To establish whether administration of DHEA, or its sulfate . . . improves cognitive function or reduces the rate of decline of cognitive function in normal older adults."

To attain this objective they reviewed "All randomized placebo-controlled trials enrolling people aged over 50 without dementia and to whom . . . any dosage was administered for more than one day"

How they went about the study . To of the scientists reviewed all the studies and pulled out data related to the specific outcomes of each study. All the information was cross checked to make sure that they had everything relevant. When they found discrepancies, they discussed then and resolved the discrepancy.

The MAIN RESULTS - "Only three studies provided results from adequate parallel-group data. (an important featurefor a scientific study). These three studies were:

  • In 1998 Wolf enrolled 75 healthy volunteers (37 women and 38 men aged 59-81) in a study of the effect of this supplement on cognitive impairment induced by stress; after two weeks of treatment, placebo group performance deteriorated significantly on a test of selective attention following a psychosocial stressor (p<0.05), while deterioration was not evident in the supplement group (p=0.85).

    However, when compared with placebo, the supplement was associated with a significant impairment on a visual memory recall test (p<0.01) following the stressor. No significant effects were found on a third cognitive task. Effects were not found on tasks when administered in the absence of a stressor.

    So, although DHEA made for improvement in one area of memory, it appears to have interfered with another area of memory.

  • In 1999, there was another study which enrolled perimenopausal women with complaints of decreased well-being and, using three cognitive measures, found no significant effect from this DHEA as compared with placebo after 3 months.
  • In 2001 van Niekerk found no effect on cognitive function in 46 men aged 62-76 after three months ofsupplementation.
  • The studies noted that the supplement was "well tolerated and without significant adverse effects apart from the reduced performance in the visual memory recall test observed in the first clinical trial listed above.

CONCLUSIONS: "What little evidence there is from controlled trials does not support a beneficial effect of DHEA supplementation on cognitive function of non demented middle-aged or elderly people. There is no consistent evidence from the controlled trials that it produces any adverse effects.

In view of growing public enthusiasm for use (of this supplement), particularly in the USA, and the theoretical possibility of long-term neuroprotective effects of DHEA/S, there is a need for further high quality trials in which the duration of treatment is longer than one year, and the number of participants is large enough to provide adequate statistical power.

Summary So although they have not found any protective effects from this supplements BUT they think that it should be studied more - longer trials, more participants because in theory it seems like this supplement should work.

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Here is a list of articles about Memory: kinds of memory; memory loss and how to improve your memory

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