How Does DHEA Reduce Cholesterol Levels?

Lowering your cholesterol can be a battle as you get older, but is this "wonder drug" the answer?

Dehydroepiandrosterone, otherwise known as DHEA, is a steroid hormone that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands. The body then converts DHEA to either male or female sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. Your body continually produces DHEA throughout your life, but prodction levels peak in your 20s, and from that point on gradually declines over the years. In fact, according to The Life Extension Manual by Jerry Emanuelson, a 70-year-old will typically have only 10 percent as much DHEA as a 20-year-old.

Benefits of DHEA

Because of the gradual decrease in DHEA production over your life, some believe it is a viable option in reversing the effects of aging, mainly because lower levels of DHEA in the body seem to correlate with a decrease in muscle mass, bone density and immune function. For instance, in the Emanuelson study, he actually noted that an increased level of DHEA, introduced via DHEA oral supplements, could actually reverse certain age-related disorders.

DHEA's effects on cholesterol

The Emanuelson report stated that, in certain instances, oral DHEA supplements can help reduce your overall cholesterol level. This occurs because DHEA can raise levels of HDL, high-density lipoproteins, which help remove cholesterol, and lower levels of LDL, low-density lipoproteins, which store cholesterol. However, outside of this study, other scientific inquiries have not reached the same result. For the moment, therefore, the role of DHEA as a positive means to combat high cholesterol is rather inconclusive.

Disputed effects of supplements

Unfortunately, while DHEA is often praised as an ultimate wonder drug, it does have its shortcomings. For instance, according to the Oct. 19, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, supplementing DHEA may increase male sex hormones (testosterone) in both women and men. This can be an issue for women, especially if they abuse the supplement, as it could create more testosterone in their bodies than estrogen. It should be noted, however, that the female body naturally produces limited amounts of testosterone, so if the supplements are used correctly, they should not upset the natural hormonal balance. Therefore, despite some side effects, according to the Emanuelson study, DHEA can be used to reduce cholesterol levels in your body.

However, the best and safest way to reduce cholesterol levels while naturally increasing bodily levels of DHEA does not involve supplements or pills — it is through exercise.

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