From Italy comes a study suggesting that DHEA supplements might reduce some of the complications of type 2 diabetes.
Many of the chronic complications of non-insulin dependent diabetes are vascular. In diabetes, there can be so much glucose in the bloodstream that it begins to "burn," that is, it begins to oxidize, even before it reaches the cells that need it.
This auto-oxidation process generates huge quantities of the superoxide free radical, which in turn can change normally harmless LDL cholesterol into a form of LDL that clogs blood vessels. The smallest, microscopic capillaries are the first affected. Only when the effects of diabetes are greatly progressed does atherosclerosis show in major arteries.
Research physicians at the university and hospitals in Turin found that giving elderly diabetics DHEA did not lower blood sugars or cholesterol, but did lower oxidative stress in the bloodstream. The concentration of free radicals of oxygen in the blood lowered on average 53 per cent.
Interestingly, taking DHEA also elevated bloodstream concentrations of vitamin E. This is because DHEA protected vitamin E from destruction by free radicals.
Diabetics are given statin drugs to lower cholesterol, ACE-inhibitors and ACE-receptor blockers for high blood pressure, calcium channel blockers, and/or thiazolidinediones (Actos/Avandia or pioglitazone/rosiglitazone), all of which have side-effects. The doctors conducting this story express a hope that DHEA, which occurs naturally in the body and which can be given in a dosage of 50 mg a day without side effects, might eventually replace these drugs.
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Brignardello E, Runzo C, Aragno M, Catalano MG, Cassader M, Perin PC, Boccuzzi G. Dehydroepiandrosterone administration counteracts oxidative imbalance and advanced glycation end product formation in type 2 diabetic patients. 1: Diabetes Care. 2007 Nov;30(11):2922-7. Epub 2007 Aug 17.