The Wonders Of DHEA

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.

Functions of DHEA include:

  • Decreases ldl cholesterol
  • Decreases formation of fatty deposits
  • Prevents blood clots
  • Increases bone growth
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Increases brain function
  • Increases sense of well-being
  • Helps you deal with stress
  • Supports your immune system
  • Helps your body repair itself and maintain tissues
  • Decreases allergic reactions

Low DHEA can be due to:

  1. Menopause
  2. Decreased production
  3. Stress
  4. Aging
  5. Smoking (nicotine inhibits the production of an enzyme, 11 beta hydroxylase, which is needed to make DHEA).

Replacement of DHEA can:

  • Increase muscle strength and lean body mass
  • Activate immune function
  • Increase quality of life
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase feeling of wellness
  • Decrease joint soreness
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
  • Decrease triglycerides
  • Stop the damaging effects of stress.

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.


Women: 5-50mg/d

Men: 10-100mg/d

DHEA is an anti-aging steroid

Based on both in vitro and vivo studies, DHEA has the following effects:

  • Stimulates immune system
  • Anti-diabetes mellitus
  • Anti-atherosclerosis
  • Anti-dementia
  • Anti-obesity
  • Anti-osteoporosis
  • Anti-cancer

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.

In Summary

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 references:

Von Muhlen D, Laughlin G, et al. Contemp Clin Trials. Feb 2007;28(2):153-68

  • ..epidemiological evidences in humans and animal studies suggest that DHEA may have cardioprotective, anti-obesity, antidiabetic, and immunoenhancing properties
  • ..double blind, placebo controlled..50mg dhea x 1year men and women 55-85

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

  • ‘harmful’ levels of DHEA adverse effects
  • ..improved libido, bone turnover, skin in women but not men
  • ..increase in testosterone and estradiol in women

Morales et al, clin endocrinol, 10/98

  • .. DHEA 100mg for 6 months
  • .. age-advanced men and women
  • .. double blind, placebo controlled, crossover design
  • .. DHEA 50mg/day increases IgF1 10% in men and women
  • .. in women, but not in men, serum androstenedione, testosterone and DHT were elevated leading to an increase in libido
  • .. men, but not in women, fat body mass decreased and knee muscle strength as well as lumbar back strength increased
  •  .. no significant adverse effects were observed

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

  • ..DHEA 50mg/d placebo for 12 months
  • ..Improved hip bone mineral density in older adults and spine bone mineral density in older women


  1. Barbieri, R., et al “cotinine and nicotine inhibit human fetal adrenal 11 hydroxylase, ” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1989;69:1221-1224
  2. Ibid., Lieberman, p220
  3. Barret-Conner, E., et al., “A prospective study of DHEA, mortality and cardiovascular disease, “NEJM 1986; 37(9);1035 4
  4. Ibid., Brownstein, Overcoming thyroid disorders, p 140
  5. Gordon, G., et al “Reduction of atherosclerosis by administration of DHEA.A study of the hypercholesterolemic New Zealand white rabbit with aortic internal injury”. J Clin Invest. 1988;82:712
  6. Nawata H, et al. Mechanism of action of antiaging DHEA-s and the replacement of DHEA-s. Mech Aging Dev. Apr 2002;123(8):1101-6

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