DHEA Eternal Youth

You have two adrenal glands, each about the size of a grape. Your adrenals sit on top of your kidneys and produce a number of different steroid hormones. The hormone they make the most is dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA for short. Your body converts DHEA into other steroid hormones, including small amounts of testosterone and estrogen, as

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you need them. As you get older, your production of DHEA naturally drops off. Studies suggest that people with high DHEA levels live longer and have less heart disease and cancer. Other studies hint that DHEA helps prevent Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, osteoporosis, and other problems. The ads for DHEA supplements promise that it builds muscle, burns fat, stimulates your sex drive, and, of course, slows aging.

Quack, Quack

Saisapaiiila—the p j. . jJ drink of the whife-vj. y hatted oowhijy in old Westerns—is made from the root of a plam ill the Sntilax family. Among bodybuilders and athletes, it is rumored to contain ''natural steroids" and testosterone. The people who sell sarsaparUla supplements -claim they are as good as illegal anabolic steroids for building muscles. Exercise your brain along with your body and don't fall for this scam.

If you think this all sounds too good to be true, you're right. Most of the studies are based on work done in the test tube, on animals, or in very limited human trials. There's no real evidence that DHEA does anything good for you—and it may be harmful. It could speed up the growth of tumors, especially those that feed on estrogen or testosterone. A man who has prostate cancer, which grows faster in the presence of testosterone, clearly shouldn't take DHEA. But what about the many older men who have prostate cancer in such an early stage that it's still undetectable? For many of these men, the cancer will never develop into a problem or need treatment—but if they take DHEA, they might stimulate the cancer into growing. Women who take DHEA risk raising their testosterone level (yes, all women naturally make small amounts of this hormone). And women who have naturally high testosterone levels are six times more likely to get breast cancer. Women should definitely not take any chances here—stay away from DHEA.

We believe you should take DHEA supplements only if your doctor has found that your level is very low and recommends them. Your DHEA level can be checked easily with a convenient blood test.

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