Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA is a hormone produced in both the adrenal glands and in the brain. DHEA is responsible for the production of male and female sex hormones - androgens and estrogens. The natural production levels of DHEA in the body start to decrease over time, typically starting by age 30. 1,2,3
DHEA deficiencies are possibly linked to other conditions such as depression, obesity and osteoporosis. Low levels of DHEA are also found in people with conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and immune disorders. 1
When natural levels of DHEA decline, DHEA supplements can be taken to boost hormonal production in the body. DHEA is also commonly associated with bodybuilding for performance enhancement. However, it is naturally produced in the body and when taken for specific medical purposes, DHEA can be useful in improving physical function and disease prevention.
DHEA Health Uses and Health Benefits
When taken as a supplement, DHEA health benefits can be important for people looking for natural ways to treat certain conditions. The following are some of the known DHEA health benefits when taking it as a supplement: 1,2
- Reduces inflammation
- Balances hormones
- Improves energy levels and fights fatigue
- Strengthens and tones muscles and builds muscle mass
- Builds bone density
- Elevates mood and fights depression
- Improves cognitive function
- Improves sexual function by taking DHEA for fertility
- Controls weight gain and helps with weight loss
- Lowers risk of heart disease and diabetes
Because DHEA supplementation can offer several health benefits, it is often used to treat conditions when a DHEA deficiency is present. DHEA uses are varied and can include:
- Lupus - Many people with lupus take DHEA supplements as a DHEA deficiency is often associated with immune disorders like lupus.
- Osteoporosis - People suffering from osteoporosis, particularly women, can take DHEA supplements to improve bone mass. Additionally, people with low DHEA levels can take this supplement to prevent osteoporosis.
- Impotence - DHEA uses include being a treatment for reducing impotence due to its effectiveness in boosting sex hormone production.
- AIDS (HIV) - DHEA is often used to help treat symptoms of HIV/AIDS. DHEA is believed to help improve immune system function and prevent the disease from progressing when taken as an additional therapy.
- Schizophrenia - DHEA therapy has shown in some studies to be beneficial in improving mood swings and poor energy levels, which are typical symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Infertility - Because DHEA helps the production of sex hormones, taking DHEA for fertility can help to improve sexual and reproductive function.
DHEA Side Effects and Precautions
Hormonal-related DHEA side effects can develop when taken in high doses. People under the age of 30 should not take DHEA supplements without consulting their physician. DHEA side effects can also result in women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. 3
When using DHEA to treat or prevent specific conditions, it is recommend to start out with a low dose. Consult your doctor about the safest ways to use DHEA therapy. 3