SUPPLEMENTAL BENEFITS DHEA, a popular dietary supplement touted as an anti-aging nostrum, appears to have at least one benefit.

According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, treatment with dehydroepiandrosterone (the full name of DHEA) appears to reduce abdominal fat and improve insulin sensitivity in older men and women. Decreased insulin sensitivity can be a precursor of diabetes.

"DHEA levels are known to drop with age, such that elderly persons have levels that are just 20 percent of the value seen at age 20," said lead author Dennis T. Villareal of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Villareal and a colleague studied 28 men and 28 women, aged 65 to 78, who took either DHEA (50 milligrams daily) or a placebo for six months.

DHEA therapy led to significant reductions in visceral and subcutaneous abdominal fat compared with placebo. In addition, DHEA was tied to a significant boost in insulin sensitivity.

Villareal cautioned that over-the-counter formulations may not contain what their labels say. Also, long-term effects of DHEA use remain unknown. Bigger, longer studies are underway.

UTAH, BREATHE FREE! Utah has become the first state to meet the goal of reducing smoking to about one in eight adults, federal officials report.

The overall smoking rate among U.S. adults continues to drop, falling to 22.1 percent in 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's down one percentage point from the year before. But the rate is falling too slowly to meet the government's goal of a smoking rate of 12 percent or lower by 2010. Utah met the goal in 2003.

Utah's "strong social prohibitions" against smoking among its predominantly Mormon residents have helped, Husten said.

OH, BABY A Web site for expectant parents reports that 40 percent of survey respondents worry that having sex during a pregnancy can hurt the baby. Thirty percent of dads and 21 percent of moms visiting reported having said no to sex due to this fear. Experts say that sex (and orgasm) during a normal pregnancy is rarely a threat to the baby's health.

SO NOTED "These ads offer false hope and encourage consumers to postpone making more difficult changes in diet and exercise that can make a real difference. They're junk."

-- Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras, at a news conference announcing lawsuits against sellers of some suspect diet products.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports