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DHEA supplement shows no effect on Alzheimer's disease

John H. johnh at faraway.xxx
Wed Apr 9 00:19:35 EST 2003

No point giving a supplement when the underlying neurochemistry is shot to
hell. Worth a belt though.


Public release date: 7-Apr-2003
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Contact: Marilee Reu
mreu at aan.com
American Academy of Neurology

DHEA supplement shows no effect on Alzheimer's disease
ST. PAUL, MN - The supplement dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, which has
been touted by some as an anti-aging hormone and a treatment for diseases
such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, showed no effect for
Alzheimer's disease patients who took the supplement for six months,
according to a study published in the April 8 issue of Neurology, the
scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
DHEA is a hormone produced naturally in the adrenal glands. The body then
converts it into the hormones estrogen and testosterone. DHEA as a
supplement is made from plant chemicals.

In the first randomized, double-blind trial of DHEA for Alzheimer's disease,
researchers gave 58 Alzheimer's patients either 100 mg per day of DHEA or a
placebo. Before the study began and at three and six months, the patients
were tested for cognitive functioning and rated by physicians and caregivers
on any changes in the severity of the disease.

DHEA did not significantly improve cognitive performance or ratings of
disease severity. A transient benefit on cognitive performance may have been
seen on the tests at three months, but the benefit narrowly missed
statistical significance, according to study author Owen Wolkowitz, MD, of
the University of California at San Francisco.

Of the 58 people who started the study, 46 completed three months of
treatment and 33 completed six months of treatment.

According to neurologist David Knopman, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
Minn., who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, the small size of the
study and the high number of people who dropped out may limit the findings
of the study. He said that larger studies are needed to test these findings.

The study was limited to people who were not taking medications that affect
cognitive functioning, including drugs commonly used for Alzheimer's.
Wolkowitz said this criterion may have contributed to the high drop-out
rate, with people choosing to take the Alzheimer's drug instead of DHEA or
placebo. Wolkowitz said DHEA should be tested in combination with these
drugs to see whether DHEA may enhance the results of the drugs.

Side effects occurring more often in the patients taking DHEA included
confusion, agitation and anxiety.

Wolkowitz said no studies have been done on the long-term effects of taking
DHEA supplements. "Because it metabolizes into testosterone and estrogen, it
has the theoretical potential to stimulate the growth of hormone-sensitive
cancers, such as breast or prostate cancers," he said. "The actual risk of
this is an area of much debate among researchers."

Interest in DHEA stems from the findings that the level of DHEA in the body
peaks between ages 20 and 30 and then decreases progressively with age, as
well as other studies showing that DHEA improves memory in mice. Studies on
the levels of DHEA in the blood of Alzheimer's patients have been

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging and by
Neuroscience Pharma Inc., of Montreal, which also supplied the matched
active and placebo capsules.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000
neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving
patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with
specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the
brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy,
Parkinson's disease, autism and multiple sclerosis. For more information
about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its web site at

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