Saturday, July 17, 2010

Are Micronized DHEA and Similar "More Bioavailable" Preparations Worth It?

The scientifically mostly unbacked attention the micronized preparations of DHEA and Pregnenole receive all over the web raised my interest in whether the claims of higher bioavailability are warrantable. It turned out to be difficult to find conclusive answers (apart from the webpages of the producers and retailers, of course ;-), but I came up with the results of a 1996 study on the delivery of micronized preparations of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) to premenopausal women [Casson. 1996]. The researchers conclude:
Micronization increased the area-under-the-curve ratios for dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate/dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate/testosterone.
Or in other words: A significantly lower amount of DHEA is converted to androgens, upon administration as a micronized preparation (cf. Fig.3 from Casson. 1996, to the left). The inclusion of a lipid matrix, like some companies have it, may further potentate this effect. However, scientifical validation of this hypothesis, especially in the case of DHEA, appears to be lacking. In spite of that, if your goal is to increase DHEA-S, then micronized preparations are to be preferred over crystalline standard formulas. If you want to boost your androgen levels, regardless of possible downstream effects on estrogen (E) and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) you will be better off with the cheaper standard preparations.
Since it was pretty hard to find something reliable on the effect of micronization, I broadened the scope of my research and came up with two other related studies: 
  1. Hameed et. al. [Hameed. 2003] found that the oral bioavailibility of micronized testosterone preparations is too low for it to be a valid treatment option for hypogonadism and related conditions.
  2. Hartmann-Craven [Hartmann-Craven. 2009] had similarly discouraging results with micronized iron and folic acid supplements. In the case of iron the bioavailability was even largely reduced as compared to the standard tablet-variety.

What can we conclude from that? It really seems to depend on the compound we are talking about, whether and in how far its micronization facilitates its oral bioavailability. In the case of testosterone for example, a relatively higher bioavailability is useless, if the latter still does not provide your body with sufficient testosterone to provide the desired effects.
On the other hand, micronization and I would think liposomal hormonal formulations, as well, appear promising, because they could a) increase bioavailability and b) slow down absorption, which, at least in the case of hormones like DHEA, Pregnenolone, etc., would decrease the chance of side-effects that result from over-conversion/-aromatization of the delivered compounds.