Articles

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Introduction

DHEA has been heavily publicized for its potential use as an anti-aging agent. It is a hormone that functions as a precursor for the production of more than 50 other hormones in the body. It is estimated that from 30 to 50 percent of testosterone in men and about 75 percent of estrogen in women is derived from DHEA. Human production of DHEA normally peaks during a person’s mid-20s and then begins a steady, progressive decline.

DHEA is only produced in the bodies of humans and other primates such as monkeys and apes. There are no good dietary sources of DHEA other than supplementation.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

Commercially available doses range from 5-200mg. However, doctors have been known to request compounding pharmacists to prepare DHEA prescriptions for patients in doses ranging from 5-200mg per capsule. Men usually take higher doses than women.

Most Common Dosage

The most common dosage for DHEA is 25mg daily but ideally doses should be individualized to a patient’s individual needs.

Dosage Forms

Capsules, oral and sublingual tablets, liquid, and creams.

Interactions and Depletions

Interactions

Reported Uses

Much of the press on DHEA has covered its potential use in slowing the aging process. Studies have suggested that DHEA can enhance muscle strength and lean body mass while boosting immunity. Other benefits may include enhanced energy and sex drive, improved mood and sleep patterns, and a greater capacity to deal with stress. (1) , (2) Further studies in animals suggest that DHEA may be helpful for such conditions as obesity, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

More extensive studies on the use of DHEA in the treatment of depression in elderly people have also yielded promising results. (3) DHEA may improve symptoms of diabetes and lupus. (4) , (5) , (6) , (7) , (8) DHEA is also being evaluated for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant behavior, (9) , (10) possibly playing a role in the prevention of atherosclerosis. (11) Recent laboratory work indicates that DHEA may play a role in the prevention and growth of cancerous tumors though the reason why is still unclear. (12) , (13)

DHEA has exhibited some promise in easing the symptoms of menopause. As women get older and approach menopause, their DHEA levels begin to decrease. One study showed that among the group of women studied, the older women with lower DHEA levels had more symptoms of depression. (14) Other studies have confirmed that overall mental health is not as good in peri- and postmenopausal women when DHEA levels are low. (15)

DHEA supplementation has improved sexual arousal in postmenopausal women. (16) A study involving 120 postmenopausal women between the ages of 51 and 99 has noted that good DHEA-sulfate levels are directly related to good bone mineral density. (17) One study suggests that long-term use of DHEA may decrease certain cardiovascular risks in postmenopausal women. (18) Also, in postmenopausal women, DHEA has shown similar hormonal effects as estrogen-progestin replacement therapy. (19)

AIDS and HIV are also areas of DHEA research. It has been reported that DHEA reduces the replication of the HIV-1 virus. (20) Also, since DHEA levels decline as the HIV progresses, (21) a human trial involving 32 HIV infected individuals was carried out to determine if DHEA supplementation could improve the quality of life for these individuals. Compared to the individuals taking placebo, those taking DHEA experienced a significant increase in DHEA blood levels as well as a significant improvement in the Mental Health and Health Distress part of the Medical Outcomes Study HIV Health (MOS-HIV) Survey. (22)

Toxicities & Precautions

Introduction

[span class=alert]Be sure to tell your pharmacist, doctor, or other health care providers about any dietary supplements you are taking. There may be a potential for interactions or side effects.[/span]

General

This dietary supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines.

Health Conditions

If you have a risk of hormone-related cancer, such as prostate, ovarian, endometrial and breast cancer, talk to your doctor before taking this dietary supplement.

Side Effects

Occasional side effects reported with the use of large doses of this dietary supplement include acne, excessive hair growth, mood changes such as irritability and aggressiveness (23) , insomnia, fatigue and low energy. It may be necessary to reduce the dose of this dietary supplement. Tell your doctor if these side effects become severe or do not go away.

Less common side effects include headaches, nervousness, a deepening of the voice, and menstrual cycle irregularities. (24) Tell your doctor if these side effects become severe or do not go away.

Pregnancy / Breast Feeding

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to fetal development during pregnancy or to infants who are breast-fed. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Age Limitations

This supplement should not be used with children unless as recommended by a physician.

References

  1. View Abstract: Yen SS, et al. Replacement of DHEA in Aging Men and Women. Potential Remedial Effects. Ann N Y Acad Sci. Dec1995;774:128-42.
  2. View Abstract: Hackbert L. Acute dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) effects on sexual arousal in postmenopausal women. J Womens Health Gend Based Med. Mar2002;11(2):155-62.
  3. View Abstract: Goodyer IM, et al. Adrenal Secretion during Major Depression in 8- to 16-year-olds, I. Altered Diurnal Rhythms in Salivary Cortisol and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) at Presentation. Psychol Med. Mar1996;26(2):245-56.
  4. View Abstract: Casson P, et al. Replacement of DHEA Enhances T-lymphocyte Insulin Binding in Postmenopausal Women. Fertil Steril. 1995;63(5):1027-31.
  5. Bates GW, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone Attenuates Study-induced Declines in Insulin Sensitivity in Postmenopausal Women. Ann NY Acad Sci. Dec1995;774:291-93.
  6. View Abstract: Suzuki T, et al. Low Serum Levels of DHEA May Cause Deficient IL-2 Production by Lymphocytes in Patients with SLE. Clin Exp Immunol. 1995;99(2):251-55.
  7. View Abstract: Chang DM. Dehydroepiandrosterone treatment of women with mild-to-moderate systemic lupus erythematosus: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. Nov2002;46(11):2924-7.
  8. View Abstract: Aoki K. Prevention of diabetes, hepatic injury, and colon cancer with dehydroepiandrosterone. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. Jun2003;85(2-5):469-72.
  9. View Abstract: Shen S, Cooley DM, Glickman LT, et al. Reduction in DNA damage in brain and peripheral blood lymphocytes of elderly dogs after treatment with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Mutat Res. Sep2001;480-481(1-2):153-62.
  10. View Abstract: Araghiniknam M, Chung S, Nelson-White T, et al. Antioxidant activity of dioscorea and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in older humans. Life Sci. 1996;59(11):PL147-57.
  11. View Abstract: Khalil A, Fortin JP, LeHoux JG, Fulop T. Age-related decrease of dehydroepiandrosterone concentrations in low density lipoproteins and its role in the susceptibility of low density lipoproteins to lipid peroxidation. J Lipid Res. Oct2000;41(10):1552-61.
  12. View Abstract: Schwartz AG, Pashko LL. Cancer prevention with dehydroepiandrosterone and non-androgenic structural analogs. J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1995;22:210-7.
  13. View Abstract: Williams JR. The effects of dehydroepiandrosterone on carcinogenesis, obesity, the immune system, and aging. Lipids. Mar2000;35(3):325-31.
  14. View Abstract: Morrison MF, et al. DHEA-S levels and depressive symptoms in a cohort of African American and Caucasian women in the late reproductive years. Biol Psychiatry. Nov2001;50(9):705-11.
  15. View Abstract: Nagata C, et al. Serum concentrations of estradiol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and soy product intake in relation to psychologic well-being in peri- and postmenopausal Japanese women. Metabolism. Dec2000;49(12):1561-4.
  16. View Abstract: Hackbert L, Heiman JR. Acute dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) effects on sexual arousal in postmenopausal women. J Womens Health Gend Based Med. Mar2002;11(2):155-62.
  17. View Abstract: Takayanagi R, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) as a possible source for estrogen formation in bone cells: correlation between bone mineral density and serum DHEA-sulfate concentration in postmenopausal women, and the presence of aromatase to be enhanced by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in human osteoblasts. Mech Ageing Dev. Apr2002;123(8):1107-14.
  18. View Abstract: Lasco A, Frisina N, Morabito N, et al. Metabolic effects of dehydroepiandrosterone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women. Eur J Endocrinol. Oct2001;145(4):457-61.
  19. View Abstract: Genazzani AD, et al. Oral dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation modulates spontaneous and growth hormone-releasing hormone-induced growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 secretion in early and late postmenopausal women. Fertil Steril. Aug2001;76(2):241-8.
  20. View Abstract: Henderson E, Yang JY, Schwartz A. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and synthetic DHEA analogs are modest inhibitors of HIV-1 IIIB replication. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. May1992;8(5):625-31.
  21. View Abstract: Mulder JW, Frissen PH, Krijnen P, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone as predictor for progression to AIDS in asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus-infected men. J Infect Dis. Mar1992;165(3):413-8.
  22. View Abstract: Piketty C, Jayle D, Leplege A, Castiel P, Ecosse E, Gonzalez-Canali G, et al. Double-blind placebo-controlled trial of oral dehydroepiandrosterone in patients with advanced HIV disease. Clinical Endocrinology. 2001;55(3):325-330).
  23. View Abstract: Dean CE. Prasterone (DHEA) and mania. Ann Pharmacother. Dec2000;34(12):1419-22.
  24. View Abstract: Cizza G, et al. Circulating plasma leptin and IGF-1 levels in girls with premature adrenarche: potential implications of a preliminary study. Horm Metab Res. Mar2001;33(3):138-43.