Researchers at the Mayo clinic have conducted a randomised, placebo controlled, double blind trial on 87 men and 57 women to study the effects of the popular antiaging supplement DHEA(dehydroepiandrosterone). The report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Oct 19) has come out with the findings that DHEA cannot be considered the magic potion to restore youth.
The study reveals that the drug does not have any marked impact on the popular measures of age like muscle tone, strength and endurance, insulin sensitivity and general health and quality of life. It was done over a period of 2 years.
During the trial the men participants were given either DHEA, a placebo or low dose testosterone. The women were given DHEA or a placebo. All of them were over 60 years old.
Their blood counts were monitored and they were asked to fill out questionaires. The results were as follows.
The hormone levels increased in those who took DHEA or testosterone, but this did not affect their overall strength and stamina, glucose tolerance or quality of life. Bone density in the neck and arms improved with DHEA but not in hips or legs, the improvement being less than with the normal treatments for osteoporosis. Neither was an improvement in overall quality of life or general health reported.
Dr.Sreekumaran Nair, lead author of the report, says that this trial is different from the previous ones which appeared to confer anti-aging properties on DHEA.They were mostly of short duration, and the benefits also were short term. Some of them were done on rodents which anyway have low or zero hormone levels.
As of now DHEA is classified by the FDA as a supplement, which permits the drug to be sold without having to meet the same standards of safety as a drug. It is sold in health food stores as a rejuvenating agent and US sales hit $50 million last year. The new findings should be further researched and DHEA may have to be reclassified as a drug feels Dr.Paul Stewart of Birmingham University, England, in an editorial accompanying the Mayo Clinic report. This is to avoid its inappropriate use which may cause harmful effects.
Opinion on this issue is varied and there are others such as Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition who feel that since DHEA has hardly any side effects and is not used for any medical condition, it should continue as a supplement.
For those who want to remain young forever, the wait continues.