What Is DHEA?
DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone that’s produced by your body. Some of it is converted into the major male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. Its effects can be driven by the actions of testosterone and estrogen after this conversion occurs, as well as by the DHEA molecule itself.
Given that DHEA is produced naturally, some wonder why it’s consumed as a supplement. The main reason is that DHEA levels decrease as you age, and this decrease is associated with several diseases. In fact, it’s estimated that DHEA decreases by up to 80% throughout adulthood. This isn’t just relevant for older adults, as levels begin to decrease around age 30. Lower DHEA levels have been associated with heart disease, depression, and mortality.
When you take this hormone as a supplement, its levels in your body increase. Some of it is also converted into testosterone and estrogen.
Why do people take DHEA?
A number of studies have found that DHEA supplements may help people with depression, obesity, lupus, and adrenal insufficiency. DHEA may also improve skin in older people and help treat osteoporosis, vaginal atrophy, erectile dysfunction, and some psychological conditions. But study results are mixed and often contradictory.
Low DHEA levels are associated with aging and a number of diseases, such as anorexia, type 2 diabetes, and HIV. In older men, having low levels of DHEA is also associated with a higher chance of death. However, it’s not clear that using DHEA supplements will help lower the risks of getting any diseases.
DHEA is used by some people who want to “reverse” aging and boost immunity, cognitive function, and muscle strength. For now, studies don’t back up these uses. DHEA has been studied as a treatment for other conditions, ranging from cardiovascular disease to menopause to Alzheimer’s. The results have been unclear.
How should I take DHEA?
There is no standard dosage of DHEA. Some studies have used capsules dosed between 25 and 200 milligrams a day, or sometimes even higher, but it depends on the medical conditions being treated. Ask your doctor for advice.
When to take DHEA morning or night?
The best time to take dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is in the morning when you wake up, this allows the supplement to act in concert with natural rhythm since the natural production of DHEA in the body reaches its peak in the early morning hours.
What are the side effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)?
Many sources advise against using DHEA, especially without first seeking medical advice, because of the possible side effects.
DHEA affects the endocrine system, which means it affects hormonal activity. Hormonal changes can impact on a range of body systems. As a result, a wide variety of side effects are possible.
In addition, DHEA has not been tested or widely used over a long period of time, so it is not clear what the long-term effects might be.
Side effects appear to vary in different age groups and between diseases.
• acute respiratory failure
• anxiety, agitation, nervousness, restlessness, and aggressive behavior
• blood in the urine
• chest pain and abnormal heart rhythm
• crawling sensation on the scalp
• eye problems
• mood and emotional changes
• night sweats
• mania in people with bipolar disorder
• weight gain
• low blood pressure
• bleeding and blood-clotting problems
DHEA might affect men and women differently.
Side effects in women
Women might experience the following:
• smaller breast size
• deepened voice
• larger genitals
• irregular or abnormal menstruation
• increased discharge
• oily skin
• increased hair growth
Side effects in men
Men might experience the following:
• smaller testes
• urgency to urinate
• enlarged or tender breasts
A new version of DHEA, known as 7-keto-DHEA is a natural byproduct of DHEA. Because 7-keto-DHEA is not converted to steroid hormones by the body, the risk of some of the hormonal side effects is reduced.
Although 7-keto-DHEA has been promoted as assisting in weight loss, building muscle, and stimulating the immune system, evidence supporting any of these claims is limited.