Hormone Reduces Heart Disease Risk in Men

Oct 16, 2004 12:23 PM EDT

A new Japanese study has found that the hormone DHEA can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce stiffness of the arteries, which may lower the risk of heart disease.

The study, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism charted the effect of replenishing the hormone in 24 older men with high cholesterol levels. Half the men were given 25 milligrams of DHEA daily for 12 weeks, while the other half were given a placebo.

Improved artery flexibility

Treatment with DHEA stimulated significant improvements in artery flexibility. This benefit was apparent after only four weeks of treatment. DHEA also produced a significant reduction in blood sugar without effecting levels of insulin, thereby improving insulin sensitivity—another important factor in reducing the risk of heart disease.

DHEA has demonstrated similar results in animals and there is some indication that the hormone may have protective effects against age-related illnesses in humans. The study’s findings shed light on how DHEA supplements may produce these benefits.

DHEA decreases with age

Often taken as a supplement, naturally occurring DHEA decreases with age. This decline has been connected to increased heart disease risk. Produced by the adrenal glands, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is the most dominant hormone in the body. The enzyme is converted into whatever hormone the body requires (i.e. estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, etc.) In both sexes, levels of DHEA peak at age 20, and then steadily decline, most dramatically with child bearing and with menopause. By the age of 80, the body only has 5% of the DHEA levels it had at 20.


1. H. Kawano, “Dehydroepiandrosterone Supplementation Improves Endothelial Function and Insulin Sensitivity in Men,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 88: 3190-3195, doi:10.1210/jc.2002-021603.