DHEA

background

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that comes from the adrenal gland. It is also made in the brain. DHEA leads to the production of androgens and estrogens (male and female sex hormones). DHEA levels in the body begin to decrease after age 30. Levels decrease more quickly in women. Low DHEA levels may lead to hormonal disorders, AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, depression, diabetes, inflammation, immune disorders, and osteoporosis. Corticosteroids, birth control taken by mouth, and agents that treat psychiatric disorders may reduce DHEA levels.
Evidence suggests that DHEA may help treat depression, obesity, and osteoporosis. However, more research is needed to support its use for hormonal disorders, sexual function, and lupus (an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and organs). DHEA has been studied for the treatment of HIV, schizophrenia, and severe injury.
DHEA may cause side effects related to other hormones. Women may experience symptoms such as oily skin, increased unnatural hair growth, a deep voice, irregular periods, smaller breast size, and increased genital size. Men may experience breast tenderness, urinary urgency, aggression, or reduced size of the testes. Other side effects that may occur in either sex include acne, sleep problems, headache, nausea, skin itching, and mood changes. DHEA may also affect levels of other hormones, insulin, and cholesterol. Safety information is lacking on the long-term effects of DHEA. DHEA may increase the risk of prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers. It is not suggested for regular use without a health professional's care.

Related Terms

3Beta-methyl-delta5-androsten-17-one, 5-androsten-3beta-ol-17-one, 5-androstene-3beta,7alpha,17beta-triol, 5-androstene-3beta,7beta,17beta-triol, 7alpha-hydroxy-dehydroepiandrosterone, 7beta-hydroxy-dehydroepiandrosterone, 7-Keto (3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandros-terone), 7-oxo-DHEA, 16alpha-hydroxy-DHEA, 17beta-spiro[5-androstene-17,2'-oxiran]-3beta-ol, 19-norandrostenediol, 19-norandrostenedione, (20R)-3beta,21-dihydroxy-17alpha,20-epoxy-5-pregnene, (20S)-3beta,21-dihydroxy-17beta,20-epoxy-5-pregnene, ADIOL, androst-5-ene-3beta,17beta-diol, androstenediol, androstenedione, androsterone, C19 steroid, clenbuterol, clostebol, dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate, dehydroepiandrosterone-3-sulphate, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate, delta5-androstene-3beta,17beta-diol, DHA, DHAS, DHEA sulfate, DHEA sulphate, DHEA-Bodipy, DHEA-enanthate, DHEA-FA, DHEA-S, DHEAS, DHEA-sulfate, DHEA-sulphate, DS, etiocholanolone, fenoterol, fluoxymesterone, mesterolone, metandienone, metenolone (metheneolone), methandriol, methyltestosterone, mother steroid, nandrolone, norethandrolone, oxandrolone, oxymesterone, oxymetholone, prasterone, pregnenolone, SDHEA, stanozolol, testosterone, trenbolone.
Select product examples: DHEA-5 Pharmaceutical Grade (Enzymatic Therapy); Nature Bounty® DHEA (Nature's Bounty, Inc.); PatentLEAN® (PatentHealth, LLC); Prestara™ (GL701; oral prasterone [DHEA]); Puritan's Pride® Inspired by Nature™ DHEA (Puritan's Pride, Inc.); Twinlab® 7-Keto DHEA Fuel™ (Twin Laboratories, Inc.); Vaginorm™ (intravaginal prasterone [DHEA]; EndoCeutics).
Note: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may be made in a laboratory using wild yam extract. However, it is believed that wild yam may not be converted into DHEA by the body. Therefore, information that markets wild yam as a "natural DHEA" may be inaccurate.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
Bone density (Grade: A)
Aging and diseases such as lupus (an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and organs) and anorexia may cause bone loss. Evidence suggests that higher DHEA levels may be linked to higher bone density, particularly in women who have undergone menopause. Research reports that DHEA supplements may help increase bone density.
Depression (Grade: A)
Most studies on the use of DHEA for depression support its use for this purpose. Recent research reports that high DHEA levels may be associated with successful treatment of major depression. Higher-quality, long-term studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made.
Weight loss (Grade: A)
Most studies on the use of DHEA for fat or weight loss support its use for this purpose. 7-Keto, a product that contains DHEA, may help boost metabolism. However, more long-term research is needed before firm conclusions can be made.
Adrenal insufficiency (Grade: B)
There is good evidence supporting the use of DHEA for adrenal insufficiency, a condition in which the adrenal glands do not make enough hormones. Studies suggest that DHEA may improve hormone levels, health, and quality of life in people with adrenal insufficiency. However, other research found a lack of effect of DHEA on depression symptoms or heart health. Additional research is needed in this area.
Lupus (Grade: B)
DHEA levels are lower in women who have lupus (an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and organs). DHEA may boost immune function. Several trials report that DHEA may lack an effect on SLE disease activity, though there is some evidence supporting its use in addition to regular treatment. Research suggests that DHEA may help improve symptoms of SLE. Additional research is needed in this area.
Sexual function / libido / erectile dysfunction (Grade: B)
Research has demonstrated lower levels of DHEA in men with erectile dysfunction. DHEA supplementation may benefit people with decreased libido. However, high-quality studies have demonstrated inconsistent results regarding DHEA supplementation for improving sexual function, libido, and erectile dysfunction. Although research in this area is promising, additional well-designed studies are required.
Aging (Grade: C)
DHEA levels may decrease with age. Early evidence in older adults suggests that DHEA may help protect against age-related declines in physical function. Research suggests that low levels of hormones such as DHEA may predict mortality (death) in older men; however, these data have been criticized. In another study, an association between DHEA levels and mental status was lacking. Additional research is needed in this area.
AIDS/HIV (Grade: C)
Early research suggests lower DHEA levels may predict HIV progression. DHEA may benefit people who have HIV in terms of boosting the immune system and blocking disease reactivation. DHEA has been suggested as an alternative or additional therapy to regular treatment for HIV-1 infection. However, there is conflicting evidence. Additional research is needed in this area.
Cervical cancer (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that DHEA inserted into the vagina may benefit women with cervical cancer. Additional research is needed in this area.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (Grade: C)
There is some evidence that DHEA may improve symptoms of fatigue. Early studies report that DHEA may benefit people who have chronic fatigue syndrome. Additional research is needed in this area.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (Grade: C)
Preliminary results suggest that DHEA improves walking and lung function in people with COPD. Although this is promising, weaknesses in study design limit these findings. Further high-quality research is needed in this area.
Coronary artery disease (Grade: C)
Research suggests that high DHEA levels may be associated with lower risk of clogged arteries. Other studies report that heart disease risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol may improve with DHEA. Early evidence has also found that DHEA may improve blood vessel function, reduce chest pain, and prevent blood clots. However, consistent results are lacking in terms of the benefits of DHEA on cholesterol. Additional research is needed in this area.
Diabetes (Grade: C)
Low DHEA may be linked to diabetes, blood sugar problems, and insulin resistance. However, there is conflicting evidence. Additional research is needed in this area.
Drug withdrawal (Grade: C)
There is mixed evidence regarding the benefits of DHEA for people who are undergoing drug withdrawal from cocaine or heroin. Additional research is needed in this area.
Fibromyalgia (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that DHEA lacks benefit in people with fibromyalgia (chronic muscle pain and fatigue). Additional research is needed in this area.
Immune function (Grade: C)
Several studies report that DHEA may boost immune function. Although it has not been well studied in humans, the available research notes that DHEA may enhance the immune system, particularly in old age. It may also benefit those with conditions such as lupus, asthma, hives, eczema, and pneumonia, and those with organ transplants. Additional research is needed in this area.
Infertility (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that DHEA may benefit people who have fertility problems, especially those with unsuccessful
Inflammatory bowel disease (Grade: C)
Early evidence has found that DHEA may benefit people who have Crohn's disease, a condition that may cause diarrhea, stomach pain, and rectal bleeding. Additional research is needed in this area.
Labor induction (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that DHEA may shorten the length of labor. High-quality trials are needed to determine safety for the infant. Caution is advised because high androgen levels may have negative effects on pregnancy or a breastfeeding infant.
Menopause (Grade: C)
Low levels of DHEA have been associated with impairments in sexual function, well-being, and cognitive performance of postmenopausal women. However, early evidence suggests that DHEA may lack benefit for women experiencing menopause. High-quality studies are needed in this area.
Miscarriage (Grade: C)
Some research reports that DHEA supplementation may decrease the rate of miscarriage. Additional research is needed in this area.
Myotonic dystrophy (Grade: C)
Myotonic dystrophy (muscle wasting and weakness) may be linked to low DHEA levels. There is conflicting evidence in terms of DHEA use for treating this condition. Additional research is needed in this area.
Partial androgen deficiency (Grade: C)
Research suggests that a low dose of DHEA may affect symptoms of partial deficiency in androgens, a male sex hormone. DHEA may protect from age-related declines in hormonal functions. Additional research is needed in this area.
Schizophrenia (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that DHEA may benefit people who have schizophrenia. Some reports have found high DHEA levels in people with schizophrenia, while others found low levels. The effects of DHA alone are unclear. Additional research is needed in this area.
Skin aging (Grade: C)
Low DHEA levels have been linked to skin aging and low collagen production. Early research suggests that DHEA may be applied to the skin to help prevent skin aging. Additional research is needed in this area.
Vaginal atrophy (Grade: C)
Early research reports that DHEA may benefit postmenopausal women who have vaginal atrophy (thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls). DHEA may promote vaginal cell growth, reduce vaginal pH, and improve the occurrence of pain during sex. Additional research is needed in this area.
Cognitive disorders (Grade: D)
Higher DHEA levels have been linked to better cognitive function (thinking), concentration, and working memory. However, evidence to support the use of DHEA for this purpose are lacking. Additional studies are warranted in this area.
Muscle strength (Grade: D)
There is a lack of evidence to support the use of DHEA to improve muscle strength. Additional research is warranted in this area.
Psoriasis (Grade: D)
Early evidence suggests that DHEA may lack benefit in people who have psoriasis (flaky, red skin patches and irritation). Additional well-designed studies are needed in this area.
Rheumatoid arthritis (Grade: D)
Early evidence suggests that DHEA may lack benefit in people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Additional well-designed studies are needed in this area.
Sjögren's syndrome (Grade: D)
Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry eyes and mouth. Many women with Sjögren's syndrome are deficient in androgen (a male sex hormone) and have low DHEA levels. Although restoring DHEA levels may improve immune function and inflammation, evidence suggests a lack of effect on Sjögren's syndrome.