DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, plays a role in the production of estrogen and testosterone. DHEA is often taken as a supplement for bone health, cardiovascular health, depression, healthy aging and longevity, and sexual dysfunction.
DHEA is most often used for
DHEA is made from another steroid hormone, pregnenolone, which is made out of cholesterol. In humans, DHEA is the second most common steroid after its sulfate ester, DHEA-S. Rather than DHEA levels, blood tests usually measure DHEA-S levels, which are about a hundred times higher and fluctuate less during the day.
DHEA production decreases with age. People in their 70s have less than 20% of the peak DHEA-S levels of young adults. In men and women who don’t produce enough DHEA (older people, usually), supplemental DHEA can raise androgen and estrogen levels (rarely above the normal range). It can also reduce the risk of colon cancer and improve body composition, bone health, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, and mood. In the context of physical exercise, DHEA was shown to increase the free testosterone levels of middle-age men but not of young men.
DHEA seems to be well tolerated, but in postmenauposal women, rare acne and rarer facial growth have been reported.
DHEA serves to make other hormones, notably the sex hormones, androgens and estrogens. It can also affect the body directly (e.g., it can weakly stimulate androgen and estrogen receptors).
Supplementation of DHEA appears to be effective in persons over 40 in the dosage range of 25-50mg, while prolonged usage of 100mg appears to be safe in this demographic. While the usage of DHEA in young persons for the purpose of testosterone enhancement is not clear, it tends to be used at 200mg for this purpose.