~ Higher Levels of DHEA Sulfate Associated with Reduced Carotid Atherosclerosis

A novel approach to coronary heart disease prevention, by Sergey Dzugan, MD

A study published in the August 2005 issue of the journal Atherosclerosis (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00219150) found a negative correlation between serum DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) sulfate levels and carotid atherosclerosis in men with type 2 diabetes. DHEA sulfate is the sulfate ester of DHEA, the most abundantly produced adrenal steroid hormone, which is believed to be protective against coronary artery disease.

A team of researchers from Osaka General Hospital and Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan measured serum DHEA sulfate levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides in 206 men between the ages of 36 and 94 diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The presence and extent of atherosclerosis was evaluated by measuring carotid artery intima-media (the inner and middle layers of the artery) thickness via ultrasound, and plaque scores were determined.

Not surprisingly, DHEA sulfate levels were inversely correlated with age. The researchers found an independent negative association of DHEA sulfate with intima-media thickness and plaque score. Intima-media thickness and plaque scores were significantly greater in subjects who had low levels of DHEA sulfate defined as less than 1000 nanograms per milliliter, than in those with higher levels of the hormone.

DHEA's protective mechanism against atherosclerosis may be due to an ability to prevent differentiation and proliferation of smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts, a lipid lowering effect, an ability to help reduce platelet aggregation and inhibit plasminogen activation, and/or enhancement of endothelial function and vascular contractility.

The authors conclude that their study "supports the notion that DHEA, which is sold in increasing amount as a food supplement, is atheroprotective in humans, and that androgen replacement therapy should be considered for men with hypogonadism."

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