Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE or deanol), is a compound that occurs in anchovies, salmon and sardines, and is believed to increase brain levels of the neurohormone acetylcholine, which facilitates the transmission of impulses between neurons (brain cells).
DMAE has been investigated as a treatment for several conditions since the 1950s, including attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia.
DMAE May Benefit Hyperactivity and Movement Disorders
A double-blind study involving 74 children with learning and behavior disorders including hyperactivity found improvement with DMAE, although the researchers were uncertain with regard to its mechanism of action.1
Research in rat cerebral cortex neurons exposed to acetylcholine or DMAE revealed similar excitatory responses in association with either compound, adding evidence to a cholinergic property for DMAE.2 In another study, rats that received choline or DMAE showed an increase in brain choline and acetylcholine.3 “This finding suggests that the concentration of free choline in the brain is below that which is necessary for a maximal rate of synthesis of acetylcholine, and raises the possibility that the availability of choline in brain may regulate the rate of synthesis of acetylcholine,” authors Dean R. Haubrich and colleagues note.
Tardive dyskinesia is a disorder characterized by involuntary, repetitive movement that is often the result of long term or high dose usage of antipsychotic pharmaceutical therapy. Early research involving individuals affected by this condition found therapeutic benefit for DMAE in some, but not all subjects.4
Failure of some patients to achieve the dramatic response observed in other patients involved in studies that evaluated DMAE has been suggested to be due to dosage inadequacies or other factors.5 In a study that compared the effects of one gram deanol (DMAE), two grams deanol, or a placebo daily for thirty days; only patients in the group that received the higher dose of DMAE exhibited a significant reduction in movement.6
The Anti-Aging Effects of DMAE
DMAE has been suggested to have an anti-aging effect. In 1973, researcher Richard Hochschild reported the finding of an extension of average lifespan of 27.3% and maximum lifespan of 39.7% in mice given a compound that immediately breaks down into DMAE and p-chlorophenoxyacetic acid, leading him to conclude that the effects observed in the study may be attributable to these byproducts.7
Research published in Mechanisms of Ageing and Development in 1980 reported the ability of DMAE to diminish cross-linking of proteins, a process that causes damage to cellular membranes in tissues, thereby contributing to aging.8 Author I. Nagy later confirmed the ability of DMAE to scavenge hydroxyl radicals, supporting its anti-aging properties.9
In mice, DMAE alone or in combination with one or two cholinergic drugs improved retention test performance.10 Lifelong administration of DMAE to mice has resulted in a reduction in the aging-associated pigment lipofuscin in the liver in comparison with untreated animals.11
In dementia patients, DMAE given three times daily for four weeks lessened behavioral changes, including those attributed to depression, anxiety, irritability and lack of initiative, in 10 out of 14 subjects.12
DMAE and Aging Skin
Interestingly, DMAE has been shown to benefit the appearance of the skin when applied topically. The compound appears to increase skin firmness.13 Whether these effects are long-lasting remains to be seen, however, one study found that several benefits obtained during a 16-week course of daily topical DMAE did not regress during a subsequent two-week period in which DMAE was not applied.14
According to author R. Grossman, improvements were observed in coarse wrinkles, under-eye circles, nasolabial folds and sagging skin on the neck. These visually assessed improvements have been confirmed by quantitative measures of skin strength. In another experiment, which involved mice and human volunteers, DMAE increased dermal thickness and collagen fiber thickness.15
DMAE is less of a household word these days, but worth keeping in mind. Because of its stimulating potential, low doses are suggested for those who choose to use it.
- Lewis JA et al. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1975 May;17(5):534-40.
- Kostopoulos GK et al. Psychopharmacol Commun. 1975;1(3):339-47.
- Haubrich DR et al. Life Sci. 1975 Sep 15;17(6):975-80.
- Bockenheimer S et al. Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr (1970). 1976 Sep 17;222(1):69-75.
- Stafford JR et al. Dis Nerv Syst. 1977 Dec;38(12 Pt 2):3-6.
- George J et al. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1981 Mar;15(1):68-71.
- Hochschild R. Exp Gerontol. 1973 Aug;8(4):185-91.
- Nagy I et al. Mech Ageing Dev. 1980 Sep-Oct;14(1-2):245-51.
- Nagy I et al. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 1984 Dec;3(4):297-310.
- Flood JF et al. Neurobiol Aging. 1983 Spring;4(1):37-43.
- Stenbäck F et al. Mech Ageing Dev. 1988 Feb;42(2):129-38.
- Ferris SH et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1977 Jun;25(6):241-4.
- Uhoda I et al. Skin Res Technol. 2002 Aug;8(3):164-7.
- Grossman R. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2005;6(1):39-47.
- Tadini KA et al. Pharmazie. 2009 Dec;64(12):818-22.