Hormone may reverse aging; new study needs volunteers

Many small studies suggest that an over-the-counter dietary supplement called dehydroepian-drosterone (DHEA) may reverse several effects of aging. Now, University researchers are looking for volunteers to participate in the first large-scale, controlled study.

DHEA is a hormone normally produced by the body. Blood levels of DHEA are higher than any other hormone in the human body until about age 25, at which point levels begin to drop. By age 70, DHEA levels drop about 80 percent.

John O. Holloszy

John O. Holloszy

Many small-scale studies have therefore examined the effects of DHEA replacement later in life. Some results suggest DHEA pills prevent and reverse bone loss, help maintain immune function and decrease abdominal fat, a risk factor for diseases such as diabetes.

“Studies to date, though limited, imply that DHEA may be as effective as estrogen in preventing and reversing several key features of aging,” said principal investigator John O. Holloszy, M.D., professor of medicine. “However, these findings need to be validated in large-scale, double-blind studies before DHEA can gain acceptance in the medical community.”

The National Institute on Aging is funding three such studies, one of which is being led by Holloszy.

Individuals between 65 and 75 may be eligible. Participants may not have had prostate or breast cancer and are ineligible if they have had any form of cancer other than skin cancer in the past five years.

In addition, volunteers may not be taking insulin or other diabetes medication.

Interested individuals will receive a free comprehensive physical examination, including an electrocardiogram.

Those who qualify for the study will receive additional free screening tests, including blood tests for diabetes and inflammation, bone density testing and fitness and diet evaluation.

Body scans also will be performed using magnetic resonance imaging, and participants will be asked to stay overnight at the Medical Campus for metabolic measurements, which reflect the number of calories burned under different conditions.

Participants will then be randomly assigned to take either a DHEA pill or a placebo pill once a day for one year. All tests performed at the beginning of the study will be repeated at the end of the study. Individuals given the inactive pill will have the option of receiving DHEA under medical supervision for the subsequent 12-month period.

All medical examinations and pills are free. For more information, call 362-2397.

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