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Improving sex drive: Use of DHEA could increase health problems

Is DHEA a safe way to increase testosterone and improve libido? My wife and I take good care of ourselves, but we do have some health problems that require medications. Our sex life has suffered in the past few years.

I take metoprolol for high blood pressure and Lopid for cholesterol. My wife uses progesterone cream and Paxil for mild depression. We've heard that testosterone can really jump-start libido, but we hate the idea of shots. DHEA seems like a natural solution, but we wonder if there are any risks.

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DHEA is a hormone the body uses to make testosterone and estrogen. Recent studies of estrogen indicate that this female hormone increases the risk of breast cancer, blood clots and heart disease. Elevating estrogen via DHEA could pose health hazards. In addition, women might experience testosterone side effects such as acne and facial hair growth.

DHEA appears to improve libido for men and women by increasing testosterone levels. But this male hormone might contribute to a higher risk of prostate cancer.

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Rather than using DHEA over the counter, ask a doctor if it is appropriate. Shots are not the only way to get testosterone. It is available in prescription patches, gels and creams.

Both of you are taking medications that can reduce sex drive. If your physicians prescribed alternatives less likely to have that effect, you might not need DHEA.

My doctor has determined that I am low in B-12 and need to take pills. But can you explain exactly how they should be taken?

My pharmacist made a point of telling me they must be taken on an empty stomach, but it says on the bottle to take the vitamin with meals. Which one is right?

We checked with biochemist Sheldon Hendler, editor of the PDR for Nutritional Supple-ments, to resolve your question. B-12 from food requires stomach acid for absorption, but the B-12 from supplements does not. As a result, you can get benefit from your pills regardless of whether you take them with meals or on an empty stomach.

I keep getting advertisements on the beneficial power of Chlorella. Can you tell me how well it works?

This Japanese algae has a high concentration of chlorophyll and certain vitamins and minerals. How well it works depends on how you plan to use it. A preliminary study suggests that Chlorella supplements might help ease the pain of fibromyalgia.

A placebo-controlled pilot study published recently in the Journal of Medicinal Food demonstrated that Chlorella supplements did not consistently reduce blood pressure. Many study participants reported better quality of life, however.

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I used tart cherries to cure a gout attack, and it worked. Do you know why?

Gout occurs when uric acid crystals build up in elbows and joints like those in toes or fingers. Tart cherries (fresh, frozen or canned) have a reputation for relieving the pain of gout, though there is no scientific explanation.

My father gave me a supplement with fish oil that he claims is essential for good health. I take it now and then but would like to know if it is safe. I am trying to become pregnant.

A recent study in the British Medical Journal suggests that eating fish rich in fish oil reduces the risk of premature birth. Pregnant women should avoid swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel, because the mercury in such fish could harm the fetus. This is not a problem with fish oil supplements, however.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

King Features Syndicate


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