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Benefits from DHEA?

Oct 15, 1996

Could you please explain what DHEA is? Is it related to testosterone or growth hormones? Is there any benefit for someone with AIDS to take it?

Response from Dr. Cohen

DHEA stands for deyhydroepiandrosterone. It is an adrenal androgen now being marketed as a "food supplement," but it is not approved by the FDA for any use. DHEA is related to testosterone, in that it is a precursor of sex hormones (it is required for them to be manufactured in the body). It is not related to growth hormone, except that they are both hormones.

At this point, DHEA has not been as well studied as other commonly used androgenic hormones. There has been one trial of DHEA in people with AIDS in which there was a reduction in viral load, but that was an uncontrolled trial (everyone in the trial got DHEA; there was no comparison group) so it is hard to conclude that the DHEA was the cause of the reduction.

There is growing evidence that testosterone or other androgens can be beneficial in people with AIDS who are wasting and/or have low testosterone levels. This may apply to DHEA, too, but at this point, there really isn't enough evidence to say.

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