The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) today announced that its members have adopted a new voluntary program for responsible marketing of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Under the new program, CRN members agree to the following voluntary guidelines when marketing DHEA:
1. CRN members will refrain from marketing the DHEA products that they manufacture or market under their brands as providing a general anabolic steroid-like response (muscle enlargement, increased strength, etc.).
2. CRN members will not target those under 18 years old in their marketing or advertising of their DHEA-containing products, as this ingredient is unlikely to provide performance-enhancing benefits in this population.
“This is an important step forward in self-regulation by the dietary supplement industry, and we encourage other companies to join our members in following these guidelines,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO, CRN. “It’s disturbing to see some of the ads in magazines or online that promote DHEA as if it were a drug or anabolic steroid, when the fact is existing research has not demonstrated that kind of effect. Advertising that overpromises results leads to consumer confusion and casts a negative shadow over the entire industry.”
In 2004, Congress enacted the Anabolic Steroid Control Act with the full support of the dietary supplement industry, which placed a number of steroid precursors on the Controlled Substances List. Recognizing that DHEA does not act as a performance enhancing substance in the same manner as anabolic steroids and is not subject to abuse, addiction or side effects associated with anabolic steroid compounds, Congress specifically and intentionally omitted DHEA from that list. The primary function of anabolic steroids, such as androstenedione ("andro"), which is now a controlled substance and not a dietary supplement, is to produce extra testosterone in order to increase muscle size and strength and reduce post-exercise recovery time, thereby making these products 'performance-enhancing substances.' Unlike anabolic steroids, DHEA is naturally produced and is the most common steroid hormone found in the body. The body tightly regulates the conversion of DHEA, preventing excess production of testosterone—essentially the body recognizes when it is already achieving normal hormone levels and thus ignores the additional DHEA. Nevertheless, some companies continue to promote DHEA as if it does have anabolic effects.
“Research demonstrates that in young, healthy adults, supplemental DHEA does not affect testosterone levels and does not provide performance-enhancing benefits, therefore, it should not be marketed as having an anabolic steroid effect,” said Mr. Mister. “Even though research suggests that DHEA, when used as directed, has a strong safety profile, manufacturers should not be marketing this product to those under 18 years old, as it does not appear to have benefits for that age group. The benefits of DHEA appear to be for older individuals who are experiencing the normal decline in hormone levels that come with age, or in those people who have otherwise compromised hormone levels.”
DHEA is used by hundreds of thousands of older adults who suffer from particular conditions that compromise their ability to produce healthy hormone levels on their own. DHEA supplements have promising use to help support immune function, maintain cognitive function and elevate mood, improve sleep patterns, maintain strong bones and normalize glucose metabolism for this population. DHEA has been on the market for more than 20 years and long-term controlled studies at varying doses have shown DHEA to be safe, with no adverse side effects associated with use.
According to Nutrition Business Journal, U.S. annual sales of DHEA are $49 million.