Increase the Levels of the Anti-Stress Hormone Dehydroepiandrosterone with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Best known by researchers as the “longevity molecule” and stress counter-puncher, DHEA is one of the most important hormones in the body. As we get older our DHEA levels decrease year after year, opening us up to disease and accelerated aging. . . Luckily, meditation provides a dramatic boost in DHEA hormone levels.” – EOC Institute
Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. One of the primary effects of mindfulness that may be responsible for many of its benefits is that it improves the physiological and psychological responses to stress. Stress is accompanied by release of stress-related hormones such as cortisol. But it is also associated with release of the steroid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) which tends to counteract the negative effects of cortisol. This would predict that, mindfulness training would result in an increase in DHEA in stressed individuals. But this prediction has not been assessed.
In today’s Research News article “Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate in adults with self-reported stress. A randomized trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8604255/ ) Jørgensen and colleagues recruited adults with self-reported high levels of stress and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition, or to receive either weekly 90-minute sessions for 8 weeks of either Local Stress Reduction (LSR) or Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (MBSR). LSR was based upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and differed from MBSR in a number of ways but primarily on an emphasis on cognitive behavioral changes. The participants had blood drawn before and after the programs and assayed for dehydroepiandrosterone‐sulfate (DHEAS). They were also measured for resilience, and well-being.
They found that in comparison to baseline, the wait-list control group, and the group that received Local Stress Reduction (LSR), the group that received Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (MBSR) had significantly higher levels of dehydroepiandrosterone‐sulfate (DHEAS), resilience and well-being. A strength of this study was then inclusion of an active control condition, LSR. This eliminates a large number of alternative confounding interpretations of the results and makes the conclusions much stronger of MBSR causing the effects.
DHEAS is a hormone that tends to counteract the deleterious effects of stress hormones. Hence, MBSR improved both the psychological and physiological well-being of the high stress participants. High levels of stress are a major source of ill health. So, counteracting the effects of stress may be an important contributor to the health and well-being of the individual. This is particularly important for individual experiencing high levels of perceived stress as in the present study..
So, increase the levels of the anti-stress hormone dehydroepiandrosterone with mindfulness.
“DHEA is one of the most important hormones in the body. It helps counteract the effects of cortisol as well as provide the raw materials for making other necessary hormones. Low DHEA is linked to increased risk of mortality. Individuals who practice meditation have 43 percent more DHEA than their peers.” – Renew Youth
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Jørgensen, M. A., Pallesen, K. J., Fjorback, L. O., & Juul, L. (2021). Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate in adults with self-reported stress. A randomized trial. Clinical and translational science, 14(6), 2360–2369. https://doi.org/10.1111/cts.13100
Long‐term stress can lead to long‐term increased cortisol plasma levels, which increases the risk of numerous diseases. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfated form dehydroepiandrosterone‐sulfate (DHEAS), together DHEA(S), have shown to counteract some of the effects of cortisol and may be protective during stress. The program “Mindfulness‐Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) has shown to have positive effects on stress. The present study examined a possible effect of MBSR on DHEAS in plasma compared to a waiting list and a locally developed stress reduction program (LSR) in people with self‐reported stress. The study was a three‐armed randomized controlled trial conducted in a municipal health care center in Denmark. It included 71 participants with self‐reported stress randomized to either MBSR (n = 24) or LSR (n = 23), or a waiting list (n = 24). Blood samples were collected at baseline and at 12 weeks follow‐up to estimate effects of MBSR on DHEAS. The effect of MBSR on DHEAS was statistically significant compared to both the waiting list and LSR. We found a mean effect of 0.70 µmol/L (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.18–1.22) higher DHEAS in the MBSR group compared with the waiting list group and a mean effect of 0.54 µmol/L (95% CI = 0.04–1.05) higher DHEAS in the MBSR group compared with the LSR group. Findings indicate an effect on DHEAS of the MBSR program compared to a waiting list and LSR program in people with self‐reported stress. However, we consider our findings hypothesis‐generating and validation by future studies is essential.