DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) Helps With Side Effects of Stress

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DHEA Helps Protect Against the Side Effects of Stress

In an article published in the August 15, 2009 issue of Biological Psychiatry, researchers at Yale University and the Veterans Administration National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder report that having a higher level of the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is associated with an improved ability to cope with extreme stress and its side effects.

Dr. Charles A. Morgan III, of Yale's department of psychiatry and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System and his colleagues evaluated performance and psychological symptoms among 41 healthy special operations soldiers enrolled in the military Combat Diver Qualification Course, which exposes participants to significant stress while engaging in a series of nocturnal underwater navigation exercises over a month-long period.  Blood samples obtained prior to and following the course were assessed for plasma DHEA, DHEA sulfate, and the stress-related hormone cortisol.

Dr. Morgan's team found that participants who had higher DHEA and DHEA sulfate levels at the beginning of the study performed better than those with low levels.  Participants with higher DHEA levels also had less stress-induced side effects of dissociation while performing.

Dehydroepiandrosterone is secreted by the adrenal glands in response to stress, and has been shown to improve stress response in animals.  In humans, the ability to navigate underwater relies on the brain's hippocampus, a region that is very sensitive to the stress and its side effects.  "Animal studies have shown that DHEA buffers against stress, in part, by modulating receptors in this region of the brain," Dr Morgan explained.  "These findings are important in understanding why and how soldiers may differ in their ability to tolerate stress and also raise the possibility that, in the future, compounds like DHEA might be used to protect military personnel from the negative impact of operational stress."

"These data provide prospective, empiric evidence that DHEA and DHEAS are associated with superior stress tolerance, fewer symptoms of dissociation, and superior, objectively assessed, military performance," the authors conclude.

Warnings Information:

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