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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone made by your adrenal glands. A small amount is also made in your brain and skin. DHEA production declines with age, starting in your late twenties. By the age of 70 you only make ¼ of the amount you made earlier in life. DHEA is the precursor to other sex hormones; estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Here we outline the functions of DHEA and how it can be supplemented.
DHEA has been shown to have a protective effect against cancer, diabetes, obesity, increased cholesterol, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases. Overdosing is possible and women are more sensitive to the effects of DHEA and need less than men.
Based on both in vitro and vivo studies, DHEA has the following effects:
The following are symptoms of too much DHEA:
Fatigue, anger, depression, deepening of the voice, insomnia, mood changes, weight gain, facial hair, acne, sugar cravings, restless sleep, irritability.
DHEA raises testosterone in women and usually leaves not much change in testosterone in men. It increases libido in women, but may or may not improve their body composition. It does, however, improve the body composition in men. There is conflicting data on strength in men. It reverses osteoporosis and there are no significant adverse effects. DHEA may be necessary for immune response, and patients on corticosteroids should have DHEA replacement therapy. Autoimmune disease may benefit from DHEA replacement. Since aging is a state of cortisol excess, patients with adrenopause should receive DHEA replenishment therapy. DHEA inhibits Il-6 and chronic inflammation.
Quick overview of referencesVon Muhlen D, Laughlin G, et al. Contemp Clin Trials. Feb 2007;28(2):153-68
Baulieu EE et al. DHEA, DHEA s, and aging : contribution of the DHEA age study to a sociobiomedical issue. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2000 Apr 11;97(8):4279-84
Morales et al, clin endocrinol, 10/98
Jankowski CM et al. Effects of DHEA replacement. Therapy on bone mineral density in older adults. A randomized, controlled trial. J Clin Endocrinol metab. 2006