Supplements of the hormone DHEA could help prevent age-related heart disease, suggest Japanese researchers.
A low dose of DHEA, taken daily by 24 middle-aged men, improved vascular endothelial function, or artery flexibility, as well as insulin sensitivity. "These beneficial changes have the potential to attenuate the development of age-related disorders such as cardiovascular disease," reported the researchers in this month's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is not available in supplement form in Europe, but is more commonly found in the US. Levels of the hormone decrease with age and there is some evidence that it has a protective effect against age-related disorders, including cardiovascular disease.
The team from Kumamoto University School of Medicine examined the effect of 25mg of DHEA daily on endothelial function, insulin sensitivity, and fibrinolytic activity in 24 men, aged on average 54, with raised cholesterol.
Treatment with DHEA improved endothelial function after just four weeks, recorded the team. They also noted a significant drop in blood sugar levels without altering insulin levels.
DHEA is produced naturally in the adrenal glands. The body then converts it into the hormones oestrogen and testosterone but this has caused the concern that it could stimulate the growth of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast or prostate cancers.