Uses, benefits and side effects of DHEA


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone available in supplement form. It is found naturally in your body and is produced by the adrenal glands. DHEA in food supplements is a synthetic form of a hormone made from diosgenin, a substance found in soybeans and wild yams .

Although many soy and wild yam products are marketed as natural sources of DHEA, the National Institutes of Health warns that the body cannot convert wild yam compounds into DHEA on its own .

In your body, DHEA is converted into male and female sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. Proponents speculate that taking DHEA supplements may increase estrogen and testosterone levels and, in turn, protect against health problems associated with hormonal imbalances and / or declining hormone levels associated with aging .

Since low levels of DHEA have been found in some people with conditions such as diabetes , breast cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis , and kidney disease, DHEA supplements are also commonly used as an alternative treatment or prevention of such conditions.


DHEA is sometimes used as a supplement by people with the following health problems, although in many cases the use has not yet been confirmed by research and the FDA has not approved DHEA for any conditions :

Some also say that DHEA slows down the aging process, improves athletic performance, increases libido, promotes weight loss, and strengthens the immune system.

Additionally, DHEA supplements are often marketed as testosterone-stimulating agents and are used for purposes such as increasing muscle mass and decreasing fat mass.

Possible benefits

Despite the many purported uses of DHEA supplements, there is conflicting evidence to support their benefits. These are some of the available studies:


Scientific studies evaluating the effects of DHEA on bone health have produced mixed results. The DHEA and Osteoporosis Study includes a study published in the Journal of Bone Metabolism in 2017 in which researchers measured bone mineral density in healthy men and women and found that people with the highest levels of DHEA in their blood had a density significantly higher bone mineral (compared to those with the lowest DHEA levels) .

On the other hand, a study published in Osteoporosis International in 2008 suggests that DHEA supplements can improve bone mineral density in women, but not improve bone health in men. In this study, 225 healthy adults (ages 55 to 85) took DHEA supplements or a placebo every day for a year. At the end of the study, it was revealed that DHEA had a positive effect on some indicators of bone mineral density in female participants. However, the male participants did not show significant changes in bone mineral density after DHEA treatment .


DHEA may have some benefit in treating depression, according to a research review published in Current Drug Targets in 2014. In their analysis of 22 previously published studies, the review authors found that supplementation with DHEA in general was associated with with significant improvements among depressed patients. Additionally, the review found that DHEA can alleviate symptoms of depression in people with conditions such as schizophrenia and anorexia nervosa .

Other use

Early research suggests that DHEA may have an effect in treating other health conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, menopausal symptoms, and metabolic syndrome. However , more research is needed before DHEA can be recommended for any treatment. these conditions.

Possible side effects.

Since DHEA is a hormone, it should only be used under the supervision of a qualified physician. DHEA should not be used by children, pregnant or lactating women.

If not used under medical supervision and dosed incorrectly, DHEA side effects can include abdominal pain, acne, breast tenderness, decreased voice in women, facial hair growth, fatigue, oily or oily skin, hair loss, heart palpitations, palpitations … blood pressure, insomnia, fast or irregular heartbeat, irregular menstruation, male pattern baldness, mood disturbances, nasal congestion, twitching of the testicles, itching, urge to urinate , increased aggression and weight gain in the waist area. DHEA can alter the production of cholesterol and hormones such as insulin, thyroid hormones, and adrenal hormones.

People with liver disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, blood clotting disorders, hormonal imbalances, or hormone-sensitive conditions (such as breast and prostate cancer) should exercise caution when using DHEA. Those with a history of heart disease or stroke should avoid DHEA supplementation.

High levels of DHEA are associated with psychotic disorders. People with mental health problems or at risk of developing mental health problems should only use DHEA under the supervision of their healthcare professional.


DHEA supplements should not be taken with the following medications, and this can cause reactions, damage the liver, or affect the effectiveness of the medication :

  • Anastrozole (Arimidex)
  • Anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, etc.), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), naproxen (Anaprox.), Dalminteparin (Fragminteparin (Fragminteparin) ), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), and others.
  • Antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil), duloxetine (Cybalta), venlafaxine (Effexor), and others.
  • Exemestane (Aromasin)
  • Fulvestrant (Faslodex)
  • Insulin
  • Letrozole (Femara)
  • Replaceable liver medications (cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates), such as lovastatin (Mevacor), simvastatin (Zovor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), amiodarone (Cordarone), and citalopram (Celexa).
  • Tamoxifen (Nolvadex)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)

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Dosage and preparation  

There is no RDA for DHEA supplementation. The following doses have been studied for these conditions:

  • Skin Aging : DHEA 50 milligrams (mg) was applied orally daily for 1 year, or 1% DHEA cream was applied to the face and hands twice daily for up to 4 months.
  • Depression : DHEA 30 to 500 mg orally daily for 6 to 8 weeks alone or with antidepressants .
  • Vaginal thinning: vaginal inserts containing 0.25% to 1% DHEA once a day for 12 weeks. Intrarosa , a special vaginal insert that contains 0.5% DHEA, is a prescription drug used for this condition.

What to look for  

When choosing a supplement brand, look for products that are certified by Consumer Labs, USP, or NSF International.

Frequently asked questions

  • As a prohormone (that is, the body converts it to a hormone), DHEA can increase testosterone levels , but there is little evidence that it can increase muscle strength. It is prohibited by sports organizations such as the National Soccer League, Major League Baseball, and the National Student Sports Association.

  • There is evidence that exercise can help even older adults who have naturally low levels of DHEA. Studies have shown that relatively short bouts of aerobic activity (an average of 23 minutes on a treadmill in one study) can increase blood levels of DHEA.

  • DHEA-S stands for Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate. It is just a male sex hormone, which is a form of DHEA. DHEA-S is produced by the adrenal glands in both men and women. As with DHEA, DHEA-S levels naturally decline with age.

  • In the morning. This is when your body naturally produces DHEA, so taking a supplement at the same time will be more effective.

  • As the level of DHEA in the blood decreases, people may experience:

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