Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Dehydroepiandrosterone may look like something that could benefit only Chess players, but bodybuilders have made the hormone - better known as DHEA - one of the most hottest new supplements around. Produced in the adrenal glands, DHEA is a 19-carbon steroid that functions as a raw material for other hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. Yet unlike other adrenal hormones such as cortisol, DHEA levels in the body aren't stable. It peaks at 25 years of age and declines after that.

Scientists concluded that DHEA lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and also enhances the immune system by inhibiting a damaging enzyme know as glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Oddly enough, subsequent studies failed to prove a similar benefit in women.

Great - but what does it do for bodybuilders? For one, DHEA doesn't get along too well with cortisol, inhibiting the catabolic substance in the body. But most relevant is that DHEA has been shown to increase the amount of natural insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). And unlike anabolic steroids, DHEA has been shown to not reduce high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good cholesterol). On the downside, DHEA hasn't been shown to increase IGF-1 action.

The consensus is that DHEA supplementation could be valuable for the aged, especially in improving their moods and vigor (50mg a day seems to do the trick), but whether DHEA has any significant benefits to young bodybuilders isn't clear. More studies are planned to gauge the precise effect of DHEA on IFG-1 production.

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