The Deal With the D.H.E.A.
By Dr. Michael Colgan

The field of fat control is left mostly to modern-day carpetbaggers, who fleece the public with weight-loss schemes so blatantly false they would raise a blush on PT Barnum.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has a bad reputation in Canada. This essential natural hormone is contemptuously labeled a steroid by some medical bureaucrats. With vague references to its use by athletes, they dismiss DHEA as being akin to anabolic steroids, which have no normal function in the human body. These health officials seem to have little idea of what a steroid is, seem unaware that their bodies make DHEA (and dozens of other steroids) every day, and generally exhibit knowledge of human biochemistry that might qualify them to pare toenails.

As a result, arbitrary regulations confine DHEA to special prescription status in Canada, with few approved indications for its use in medical treatment. Such senseless restriction deprives the Canadian public of a most important biochemical substance. It is non-toxic in any sensible dose and is essential for the prevention of degenerative disease.

I should mention that following submissions to the government to remove restrictions on DHEA by some members of the medical profession, it has become available under the counter. Canadian authorities seem to be turning a blind eye, except for occasional media-invited, highly publicized raids, in which some unfortunate shopkeeper is arrested and fined. Most members of Joe Public, however, are rightly wary of buying banned substances since it is considered a crime to possess it without a prescription.

It's time the science of DHEA became widely known. In this series of articles I will present the science of DHEA, both to disseminate the information, and in the hope that someone in Ottawa may be listening.

What does DHEA do?
The average human adult replaces over 300 billion cells every day, for growth, maintenance and repair. In order to replace those cells successfully, your body must acquire or create enough of each biochemical required to grow them. High on the list, DHEA is made continuously in your adrenal glands, from cholesterol, under the influence of adrenocorticotrophic hormone from the pituitary gland. DHEA is the base hormone used to manufacture all of your steroid hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.1 DHEA is also your most powerful maintenance signaling system. Without sufficient DHEA, numerous scientists now believe it is impossible for the human body to complete essential daily maintenance. Damage slowly accumulates until degenerative disease can gain a foothold.(2,3) Remember, no one dies of old age. No one becomes a doddering geriatric because of the passage of time. We age and die from accumulated damage. By inhibiting that accumulation, DHEA is a primary health promoting, disease preventing, and anti-aging compound.

DHEA declines with age
  DHEA declines with age, likely due to slowly accumulated damage to the brain with a consequent decline in the hormone cascade (interconnected group of hormones in the body).(4) In women, DHEA is the first hormone to decline significantly with perimenopause, at about age 35, thereby starting the downward spiral into the degenerative condition of menopause.(5) The first obvious indication is increasing difficulty in controlling body fat. By age 30, the average blood level of DHEA (measured as the sulfate DHEAS, the form it takes in your blood) falls dramatically from its peak at age 20. Research suggests that the 30-year-old level is likely the minimum amount required for adequate repair signaling.(3)

For most people, supplementation with 10 to 50 mg of DHEA daily will maintain a DHEA sulfate level high in the 30-year-old range. We have used this level of supplementation with our American clients for the last two decades, with no side-effects and very few contraindications to use. It is becoming increasingly clear that this form of supplementation can ward off many diseases.(3)

Here I will discuss DHEA's multiple roles in helping to control body fat, because being overweight is by far the largest single cause of disease in Canada today.(6)

DHEA and Fat Loss

Six people out of every 10 in Canada have allowed themselves to become overweight. The evidence is overwhelming that even being moderately overweight is inextricably linked to insulin resistance, adult-onset diabetes, heart disease, stroke, numerous forms of cancer, premature senility and Alzheimer's disease.(4)

Clearly, we don't know how to remain slim for life. Judging by the immense popularity of low-fat and low-carb foods, aerobic sweat shops, chub clubs, diet fads and fat-loss fancies it is evident that people would love to know how to stay trim, and they will pay handsomely for any slight chance to come upon that knowledge.

Despite a general acknowledgement that fat is a serious cause of illness, excess body fat is almost ignored by medicine. The field of fat control is left mostly to modern-day carpetbaggers, who fleece the public with weight-loss schemes so blatantly false they would raise a blush on PT Barnum. Despite this deplorable situation, the science of healthy fat loss is well established. We teach it in our seminars on Saltspring Island in BC. The multiple roles of DHEA and other treatments are covered in the weight-loss process.

As we age, almost all of us suffer brain and other organ damage, which reduces the efficiency of insulin in controlling blood sugar. Consequently, the pancreas has to put out even more insulin to try to keep fasting blood sugar levels below the diabetic range (above 120 mg/dl).

Long before that stage, you are pre-diabetic, and your body is losing control of sugar and fat. For the last 25 years we have used 95 mg/dl as the cutoff for normal fasting blood sugar, though most physicians still allow up to 110 mg/dl. Most people test in the range of 100-110 mg/dl and are well on the way to becoming overweight and getting diabetes. In September 2003, the US Center for Disease Control finally adopted 100 mg/dl as the official cutoff. That puts the majority of Canadians into the pre-diabetes category.

It is now well documented that raising DHEA levels by low-dose supplementation, repairs insulin metabolism, improves insulin efficiency, reduces insulin requirements and lowers blood sugar levels.(3) And it is well established in human biochemistry that the lower your insulin requirement, the higher the ratio of lipolytic (fat disposing) hormones to insulin, and the greater the efficiency of lipolysis (disposal of body fat).(7) Raising DHEA levels also helps to transport body fat from storage in the adipose (fat) cells to the muscles for disposal. It does this trick by improving the efficiency of carnitine as the fat transporter.(8)

DHEA supplementation also works to increase testosterone levels in older men and women, whose DHEA level is below that of a 30-year-old. The net result is an increase in lean mass and muscle strength, which enables more fat to be used as fuel.(9) Remember, your muscle is the engine that consumes most of your fat. The greater your lean mass, the more fat you use as fuel.

Unless DHEAS levels are at least at the level of an average 30-year-old, all of the typical fat loss schemes that manipulate food and exercise can achieve only short-term results. Therefore they are doomed to repeated failure that makes fat loss progressively more difficult, and that promotes degenerative disease. Daily low dose DHEA supplementation is a key variable in prevention.


Stryer L. Biochemistry, 4th Edition. New York. WH Freeman, 1995.
van den Beld AW, Lamberts SW. “The male climaterium.� Prostate Suppl., 2000;10 Cherniske S. The Metabolic Plan. New York. Ballantine Books, 2003.
Colgan M. Brain Power. San Diego: CI Publications, 2004.
Colgan M. Hormonal Health. Vancouver, BC: Apple Publishing, 1996.
Colgan M. You Can Prevent Cancer. Vancouver, BC: Apple Publishing, Pre Press.
De Pergola G. “The adipose tissue metabolism role of testosterone and DHEA.� Int J Obesity, 2000;24:Suppl 2:859-863.
Chiu KM, et al. “Correlation of serum L-carnitine and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate levels with age and sex in healthy adults.� Age Ageing, 1999;28:211-216.
Yen SS, et al. “Replacement of DHEA in aging men and women.� Ann NY Acad Sci, 1995;774:128-142.

Dr. Michael Colgan

Dr. Michael Colgan, president of the Colgan Institute in San Diego and best-selling author on sports nutrition, also lectures and writes extensively on aging and is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

This article has appeared in, and is supplied courtesy of  VISTA Magazine

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