Friday, April 11, 2008

The mother of all hormones

When the subject of hormones comes up, most of us think in terms of themale and female hormones, testosterone and oestrogen. Some of us even take tablets to replace what our doctors feel we lack in these hormones. But we tend to ignore, or remain completely ignorant of, what scientists term the Mother of all hormones - DHEA.

What is DHEA?

DHEA is an acronym for the hormone produced by our adrenal glands known as

dehydroepiandrosterone (dee-hydro-epi-an-dros-ter-own). It is often called the

'Mother of all hormones' since it is the building block used by the body to produce many other vital hormones. These include the sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) as well as important steroid hormones. They play a vital role in mineral metabolism, building muscles, controlling stress, maintaining male and female characteristics and keeping the body strong and full of vitality.

Research has shown that the level of DHEA in the body is directly linked to the aging process, since the body produces less of the hormone with age.

Diet Start

Dozens of scientific studies have proved a direct relationship between a low DHEA level and cancer, head disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, Parkinson's disease, obesity, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis. One of the long-term studies involving 5 000 women found that DHEA levels fell drastically up to nine years before the development of breast cancer.

Low levels of DHEA can lead to depression, chronic fatigue, headaches, weakness and an elevated susceptibility to infections caused by viruses or bacteria. Its effect on the immune system has led researchers to believe that DHEA may play an important role in fighting AIDS.

Studies have shown that the body's production of DHEA starts to drop sharply from the age of 30 to very low levels at age 80. This is the largest decline of an important biochemical yet documented.

Directly after birth the brain uses so much DHEA for growth that the levels decline dramatically. As the brain approaches its final development stage, the levels once again increase. In a 12-year study of 240 men aged between 50 and 79 years, researchers found that DHEA levels were inversely correlated with mortality, from heart disease as well as from other causes.

DHEA production varies widely from person to person. Some people seem to maintain youthful levels into later life while others seem to become deficient in DHEA at a young age. Chronic illness and major stress at a younger age, deplete the hormone more rapidly.

Research indicates that DHEA:

  • plays a major role in protecting brain neurons from senility-associated disorders such as Alzheimer's and dementia and improves memory function;
  • increases natural hormone levels, and therefore the libido, necessary for a healthy sex life;
  • strengthens the immune system;
  • plays an important role in preventing heart disease by helping to lower cholesterol;
  • allows insulin to function more efficiently, thereby normalising blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of insulin resistance and/or diabetes;
  • is an anti-ageing hormone in that it acts as a buffer against stress-related hormones, in particular cortisol, which damages the body and causes destruction of tissue -the main cause of rapid ageing;
  • actively helps the body burn kilojoules for energy rather than storing them as fat.

How can DHEA did weight loss?

Simply by controlling your stress levels as explained in the chapter Stress can make you fat! Stress is a major contributing factor to obesity as well as most of the other auto-immune diseases. Because of the drastic decline in DHEA as we grow older, the body loses its buffer against stress-related hormones, particularly cortisol. To summarise the stress cycle:

The process is simple to understand: undue emotional stress for long periods of time + high levels of adrenaline and cortisol + high levels of blood sugar + insufficient or inefficient insulin = body fat + a plethora of auto-immune diseases.

The answer to your spiralling, chronic obesity might therefore be to control your stress levels, which will then cause your weight to be controlled so much more readily. Clinical studies have concluded that DHEA levels are inversely related to cortisol, which means that as cortisol increases, DHEA levels decrease.

Supplementation with DHEA will help your body by acting as a buffer against cortisol and the obesity-promoting chain reaction it evokes.

... andjoyohoxing