Sex steroid DHEA does not help post-menopausal women

September 29th, 2008 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 29 (IANS) A new trial by Monash University researchers has found that the much-hyped sex steroid DHEA does not provide any significant benefits to post-menopausal women.The 12-month trial, by associate professor Susan Davis and PhD student Mary Panjari, investigated the impact of DHEA or dehydroexpiandrosterone, on the sexual desire, menopausal symptoms, mood and well-being of 93 postmenopausal women.

“The hype surrounding DHEA far exceeds any health benefits,” Susan Davis said, according to a release of Monash University.

“DHEA occurs naturally in the body and can also be taken in supplement form. It is increasingly prescribed to post-menopausal women to help improve their wellbeing and boost libido. However, our study showed no significant improvement in any of these areas.”

DHEA is a sex steroid or hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. It is the most abundant hormone in women aged in their mid-20s but levels decline dramatically from this age and are almost halved in many women by the age of 40 years.

Co-investigator of the Women’s Health Program study, Robin Bell said between 30 and 40 per cent of post-menopausal women report low sexual desire. About 50 per cent of women experience significant menopausal symptoms, the most common of which is hot flushes, and about 35 per cent of women experience moderate symptoms.

“DHEA is converted to both oestrogen and testosterone in the body, so theoretically it has the potential to reduce hot flushes and other symptoms and increase a woman’s sexual function and general well-being. It was thought that by restoring the steroid levels to those found in younger women, that an anti-ageing effect would result in an all-round improvement to well-being. However, in our study none of these effects were achieved,” Bell said.

Side effects reported in the study included increased acne, excess body hair, and a small reduction in HDL cholesterol.

Bell said based on their research findings, it was safe to say that women who were taking DHEA were receiving very little benefit — if any at all.

“While we found no immediate safety risks, the claims to fame of DHEA are simply not supported by the science,” Bell said.

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