UCSF Study Finds DHEA Benefits Cardiovascular Function

November 10, 1998

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), the popular hormone widely sold as a nutritional supplement to fight conditions from cancer to aging, does in fact have a beneficial effect on the vascular function of the heart, a new University of California San Francisco study shows.

Though there has been limited scientific basis for claims that DHEA is a potent anti-disease and anti-aging drug, the new study, which will be presented today (Nov. 10) at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Dallas, shows that DHEA does protect the heart against some cardiovascular diseases.

Scientists suspect DHEA -- which is synthesized by our own bodies, is converted into the hormones estrogen and testosterone and decreases sharply with age -- does indeed have a link to conditions including aging, heart disease and cancer, said UCSF cardiology research fellow Christian Zellner, MD, who conducted the study under the direction of UCSF Stanford Health Care cardiologists Tony Chou, MD, UCSF assistant professor of medicine, and Kanu Chatterjee, MD, UCSF professor of medicine, at UCSF's Vascular Lab.

Researchers at medical centers across the country are investigating a number of DHEA-related issues, including DHEA?s role in brain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus. Some of the lingering questions also include why only humans and primates manufacture the hormone and why it diminishes sharply with age.

This study, part of UCSF's continuing research of DHEA's effects on cardiovascular health, is an important step in giving scientific credence to the role and benefits of DHEA, Zellner said. The research is also a step in understanding any possible untoward effects on individuals who take the drug with high hopes of beating aging and disease, Zellner said. That is important, he said, because an increasing number of people are taking DHEA, yet its sale is unregulated by the FDA.

The animal study, conducted on pigs, shows that DHEA can reverse the effects of Endothelin-1, or ET-1, a peptide that is elevated in most heart diseases, including heart attacks and high blood pressure.

A balance between ET-1 and nitric oxide is essential for maintaining vascular tone, which is necessary for controlling blood pressure, maintaining the tone of coronary arteries and regulating blood flow to the heart and other parts of the body, Zellner said. When ET-1 is elevated the heart's vessels constrict, meaning the flow of blood is hampered and the heart's tissue does not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform well and stay healthy.

The study, however, found that DHEA reversed that vascular constriction and re-established bloodflow.

This year marks the third year in a row that UCSF's Vascular Lab, one of the few groups in the country researching DHEA's effects on heart disease, will present findings on the topic at the AHA conference. The UCSF group showed previously that DHEA dilates the coronary arteries in a similar way to anti-anginal drugs like nitroglycerin and increases the function of the endothelial cells, which create the inner lining of the arteries and offer protection against a wide range of cardiovascular disorders, including atherosclerosis.

Though DHEA has become increasingly popular as a nutritional supplement, there is still a lot of scientific work that needs to be done to make sure the hormone is both safe and beneficial, Zellner said. No human studies examining the cardiac effects of DHEA have been completed, which is essential before any recommendations involving the drug can be made, Zellner said.

The study was funded by the UCSF Foundation for Cardiac Research. Other researchers include: Amanda Browne, BS, Dorina Gheorghevici, MD, Alice Guh, BS, UCSF Vascular Lab; Krishnankutty Sudhir, MD, Baker Medical Institute, Melbourne, Australia; Kanu Chatterjee, MD, Tony Chou, MD, UCSF.
-end-


University of California - San Francisco

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.