Some steroids could protect your heart

Steroids sold as health supplements could switch on a natural defence mechanism against heart disease, research shows. University of Leeds biologists found that this protective effect can be triggered by pregnenolone sulphate – a molecule that is part of a family of ‘fountain-of-youth’ steroids, so-called because of their apparent ability to improve energy, vision and memory. Collaborative studies with surgeons at Leeds General infirmary showed that this defence mechanism can be switched on in diseased blood vessels as well as in healthy vessels. So-called ‘fountain of youth’ steroids are made naturally in the body but levels decline rapidly with age. This has led to a market in synthetically-made steroids that are promoted for their health benefits, such as pregnenolone and DHEA. “The effect that we have seen is really quite exciting and also unexpected,” said David Beech, professor, who led the study. A chemical profiling study indicated that the protective effect was not as strong when
cholesterol was present too. This suggests that the expected benefits of ‘fountain of youth’ steroids will be much greater if they are used in combination with cholesterol-lowering drugs and/or other healthy lifestyle strategies such as diet and exercise, a Leeds release said.
“These steroids are relatively cheap to make. Some of them are already available as commercial products. So if we can show that this effect works, it could be a cost-effective
approach to addressing cardiovascular health problems that are becoming epidemic world-wide,” Beech said.
The paper is published in Circulation Research.

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