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November 6, 1996

Scientific Verdict Still Out on DHEA

JAMA. 1996;276(17):1365-1367. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540170009004

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PERHAPS NO drug better illustrates the problem with the US Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 than does the adrenal hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

Although mounting evidence suggests that DHEA may have a broad range of clinical uses, the long-term effects of the substance are unknown. But that hasn't prevented the creation of a large and growing market for what many are calling a miraculous "Fountain of Youth."

DHEA has become the latest drug of choice for talk shows and reports in the print and broadcast media, where it is being touted as an "antidote for aging" and a "superhormone" that can help burn fat, build muscle mass, boost libido, strengthen the immune system, prevent heart disease, cancer, and non—insulin-dependent diabetes, retard memory loss, help in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus, and prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases.

All this, despite the