The term prohormone refers to the precursor of a hormone. DHEA is a prohormone that is produced by the adrenal glands and can be converted to active sex hormones. While the tendency of DHEA levels to fall with age was discovered long ago, the biological role of the prohormone is largely unknown.
Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have now shown that elderly men with low levels of DHEA in the blood run an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease events.
Lower level – greater risk
The study—which monitored 2,614 men age 69-80 in Gothenburg, Uppsala and Malmö for five years—assessed DHEA levels. The findings demonstrated that the lower the DHEA level at the study start, the greater the risk of coronary heart disease events during the five-year follow-up.
“Endogenous production of DHEA appears to be a protective factor against coronary heart disease,” says Åsa Tivesten, who coordinated the study. “High DHEA levels may also be a biomarker of generally good health in elderly men.”
According to Professor Claes Ohlsson, “While the study establishes a clear correlation between DHEA in the blood and coronary heart disease, the discovery does not indicate whether or not treatment with DHEA will reduce the risk in individual patients.”
“Dehydroepiandrosterone and its Sulfate Predict the 5-Year Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Events in Elderly Men” was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on October 28.
Åsa Tivesten, Professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy and the Wallenberg Laboratory, University of Gothenburg
Phone: +46 31-3422913
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Approximately 1.4 million Swedes are estimated to have coronary heart disease. The condition is the most common cause of death in the country. Coronary heart disease patients live an average of 12-15 years longer than they did only 30 years ago.
—Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation
BY: Krister Svahn