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DHEA is an androgen hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands, testes and the ovaries. This hormone has been gaining importance as an anti-aging hormone which has also been noted to have positive effects on the immune system.
DHEA supplements are being advised to counter a number of age-related disorders such as heart diseases, breast cancer, impaired memory and osteoporosis. Studies are being conducted to identify the benefits of DHEA supplements over the immune functions. While many studies have reported the improvement in immune function in different set of individuals following the supplementation of DHEA, additional studies may be required to substantiate its long term use and its benefits in otherwise healthy individuals.

Aging, DHEA and Immune Function

Aging has been associated with the decrease in the function of a number of organs. This leads to the decrease in the levels of hormones that help in the normal functioning of a number of cells and tissues. Menopause is one of the most common examples that denote the relationship between hormones and body functions. Similarly in men, the decrease in the production of androgen has been associated with a number of changes. Doctors, Arlt and Hewison from the Medical School of Birmingham report that hormonal changes associated with increasing age are proportional with a decline in the immune function along with other regular changes. The study also reported that a decrease in hormone production due to increased age may likely affect the functioning of the immune system.

Another study published from Brazil supports the notion that aging associated with decreased production of DHEA causes a reduction in the immune function. Aging had an effect on both the innate and adaptive immunity wherein the immune responses were decreased to a significant level.

DHEA Levels in Correlation with Abdominal Surgery and Lupus

Individuals undergoing abdominal surgery are highly prone to develop bacterial infections owing to the suppression of the immune system following the surgery. A study conducted in Germany reported that DHEA supplementation in such individuals can reduce the incidence of secondary infections.Improvement in the release of immune factors such as IL-1beta and TNF-alpha were noted following the administration of DHEA. The results obtained from the study can be beneficial for individuals to prevent suppression of the immune system following surgeries. In general individuals, these effects may help in strengthening of the immune system.

Lupus belongs to the group of autoimmune disorders wherein the immune system begins to attack the body’s own cells. A review of the scientific literature noted that DHEA supplementation can be beneficial in individuals suffering from lupus. The authors of the review reported that administration of DHEA supplements were noted to decrease the flare-up of the symptoms, boosted the bone function and enhanced mental function. The findings reported in the scientific review substantiates the claim that DHEA supplementation may have a benefit in improving the immune system. However, further studies are required to evaluate the safety and efficacy of supplementation of DHEA in otherwise healthy individuals and in women.

  • 1. Arlt W, Hewison M. Hormones and immune function: implications of aging. Aging Cell. 2004 Aug, 3(4):209-16
  • 2. Bauer ME, Jeckel CM, Luz C. The role of stress factors during aging of the immune system. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Feb, 1153:139-52
  • 3. Frantz MC, Prix NJ, Wichmann MW, van den Engel NK, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone restores depressed peripheral blood mononuclear cell function following major abdominal surgery via the estrogen receptors. Crit Care Med. 2005 Aug, 33(8):1779-86
  • 4. Nordmark G, Bengtsson C, Larsson A, Karlsson FA, Sturfelt G, Ronnblom L. Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone supplement on health-related quality of life in glucocorticoid treated female patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Autoimmunity. 2005, 38(7):531-40

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