DHEA Supplement Benefits, Side Effect and Information

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a naturally occurring hormone found in the body. DHEA is produced in the adrenal gland, gonads, and brain. DHEA and its metabolite dehydroepiandrosterone-3-sulfate or DHEAS are the major steroidal products of the adrenal gland. It is important to know that levels of DHEA and DHEAS in the body decreases progressively from a peak at age 25 to less than 20 of that peak before the age of 70.

Since levels of DHEA decrease as people get older, some researchers believe that restoring DHEA to higher levels may delay some of the effects of aging. However, the fact that young people have higher levels of DHEA than older people does not necessarily mean that supplementing DHEA will make people appear younger.

At this point, little is known about how DHEA works in the human body. Additionally, DHEA may have different effects in men and women at certain stages in their lives.

Clinical Trials, Studies and Facts

  • One double blind study, as presented in a prospective on the treatment of erectile dysfunction using DHEA, indicated that supplementing with DHEA may improve erectile dysfunction in some men. Study participants were given 50 mg of DHEA taken daily for six months. (More studies are needed.)
  • Preliminary studies have indicated that individuals with Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) may benefit from supplementing with 50 to 200 mg of DHEA daily. (More studies are needed.)
  • Some clinical trials, but not all, have shown that DHEA supplementation lowers overall body fat mass. (More studies are needed.)
  • Lower than normal levels of DHEA have been reported in elderly women suffering from depression. In one double-blind trial both male and female participants, after supplementing with 50 mg of DHEA daily for six month reported, a remarkable increase in perceived physical and psychological well-being. However, another report has associated severe depression to increased levels of DHEA. (More studies are needed.)
  • Some reports suggest that DHEA may reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. However, DHEA has also been reported to lower HDL (Good Cholesterol) and has been linked to certain cardiovascular risk factors in women. DHEA should not be used to protect against heart disease until further is known about this supplement. (More studies are needed.)
  • Results of one double-blind trial, suggested that DHEA supplementation may reduce some of the adverse effects of aging. Trial participants were give 50 mg of DHEA daily for an entire year. An improvement in bone mineral loss as well as a significant increase in libido was seen in female participants. Increases in hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, as well as improvement in skin condition was seen in all trial participants. (More studies are needed.)

Possible Side Effects

Few side effects are reported when DHEA supplements orally in recommended doses. Side effects may include fatigue, nasal congestion, headache, acne, or rapid/irregular heartbeats. In women, the most common side effects are abnormal menses, emotional changes, headache, and insomnia. Individuals with a history of abnormal heart rhythms, blood clots or hypercoagulability, and those with a history of liver disease, should avoid DHEA supplements.

Supporting Literature

Baulieu EE, Thomas G, Legrain S, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate, and aging: contribution of the DHEAge Study to a sociobiomedical issue. 2000;97:4279-4284.
Diamond P, Cusan L, Gomez J-L, et al. Metabolic effects of 12-month percutaneous dehydroepiandrosterone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women. 1996;150:S43-50.
Jessee RL, Loesser K, Eich DM, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone inhibits human platelet aggregation in vitro and in vivo. Ann NY Acad Sci 1995;29:281-290.
Morales AJ, Nolan JJ, Nelson JC, et al. Effects of replacement dose of DHEA in men and women of advancing age. J Clin Endorcrionol Metab 1994;78. 1997;82:2263-2266.
Reiter WJ, Pycha A, Schatzl G, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: a prospective, double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled study. Urology 1999;53:590-595.
Van Vollenhoven RF, Morabito LM, et al. Treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus with dehydroepiandrosterone: 50 patients treated up to 12 months. J Rheumatol 1998;25:285-289.
Weksler ME. Hormone replacement for men. Br Med J 1996;312:859-860.
Ebeling P, Koivisto VA. Physiological importance of dehydroepiandrosterone. Lancet 1994;343:1479-1481.