Taking supplements of the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, better known as DHEA, does not improve body composition, physical performance, insulin sensitivity, or quality of life in elderly adults, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine. The new findings strongly contradict advertisements promoting these supplements as anti-aging compounds, lead author Dr. K. Sreekumaran Nair, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues conclude.
The findings are based on a 2-year study of 87 elderly men with low DHEA and testosterone levels and 57 elderly women with low DHEA levels. The men were randomly assigned to receive DHEA, testosterone, or an inactive “placebo,” while the women received DHEA or placebo.
As anticipated, treatment with DHEA or testosterone led to increased serum levels of these hormones. These changes, however, had no significant effects on body composition, physical performance, insulin sensitivity, or quality of life.
Although DHEA replacement may have slightly increased bone thickness, this effect was inconsistent and was of a much smaller magnitude than is seen with established osteoporosis therapies.
No major side effects were seen with either compound.
“Taken together, our data provide no evidence that either DHEA or low-dose testosterone is an effective anti-aging hormone supplement and argue strongly against the use of these agents for this purpose,” Nair’s team states.
In a related editorial, Dr. Paul M. Stewart, from the University of Birmingham in the UK, agrees with the researchers’ conclusion, commenting that “the search for eternal youth will continue, but the reversal of age-related decreases in the secretion of DHEA and testosterone through ‘physiologic’ replacement regimens offers no answer and should not be attempted.”
SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, October 19, 2006.