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DHEA and Lp(a)

Posted Jan 16 2011 10:32am
DHEA supplementation is among my favorite ways to deal with the often-difficult lipoprotein(a), Lp(a).

DHEA is a testosterone-like adrenal hormone that declines with age, such that a typical 70-year old has blood levels around 10% that of a youthful person. DHEA is responsible for physical vigor, strength, libido, and stamina. It also keeps a lid on Lp(a).

While the effect is modest, DHEA is among the most consistent for obtaining reductions in Lp(a). A typical response would be a drop in Lp(a) from 200 nmol/L to 180 nmol/L, or 50 mg/dl to 42 mg/dl--not big responses, but very consistent responses. While there are plenty of non-responders to, say, testosterone (males), DHEA somehow escapes this inconsistency.

Rarely will DHEA be sufficient as a sole treatment for increased Lp(a), however. It is more helpful as an adjunct, e.g., to high-dose fish oil (now our number one strategy for Lp(a) control in the Track Your Plaque program), or niacin.

Because the "usual" 50 mg dose makes a lot of people bossy and aggressive, I now advise people to start with 10 mg. We then increase gradually over time to higher doses, provided the edginess and bossiness don't creep out.

The data documenting the Lp(a)-reducing effect of DHEA are limited, such as this University of Pennsylvania study , but in my real life experience in over 300 people with Lp(a), I can tell you it works.

And don't be scared by the horror stories of 10+ years ago when DHEA was thought to be a "fountain of youth," prompting some to take megadose DHEA of 1000-3000 mg per day. Like any hormone taken in supraphysiologic doses, weird stuff happens. In the case of DHEA, people become hyperaggressive, women grow mustaches and develop deep voices. DHEA doses used for Lp(a) are physiologic doses within the range ordinarily experienced by youthful humans.

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