DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone that naturally exists in our bodies that converts into major male and female hormones, mainly testosterone. DHEA is not only a natural hormone, but also a popular supplement that can affect the levels of other hormones in your body. DHEA has been called the ‘super hormone’ and the ‘fountain of youth hormone’, so its popularity as a supplement comes as no surprise.
While the hormone does occur naturally in your body, DHEA levels decrease as you age and this decrease has been associated with several diseases such as heart disease, depression, and mortality. In fact, it has been estimated that DHEA levels decrease by 80% throughout adulthood. Our bodies produce peak amounts of DHEA in our 20s and 30s, then the decline begins. This is why DHEA is considered an important chemical in the anti-aging process, and a target for anti-aging products.
When you consume DHEA as a supplement, its levels in your body increase. It is available in several different forms, including a pill, a topical cream and an oral spray. Some of it is then converted into testosterone and estrogen. This is where caution must be had: understanding where in the hormone synthesis pathway the root of the hormone imbalance lies is vital to understanding if, how much, and what DHEA supplementation is right for a patient. Not only symptoms, but also lab testing, is a key factor in determining if DHEA supplementation is right for you. Regular re-testing is also an important part of of hormones replacement therapy management.
Some diseases cause a reduction in bone density. Low DHEA levels are associated with lost bone density, which decreases as you age. Due to these associations, research has been conducted to see if DHEA can improve bone density in older adults.
Some studies have shown that taking DHEA supplements for 1-2 years can improve bone density in older women, but has no effect on men.
The relationship between DHEA levels and depression isn’t entirely clear. Depression has been linked to low levels of DHEA and there is evidence that DHEA supplements could help improve the symptoms of depression. While some research suggests DHEA can aid in treating depression, other studies have shown no improvements.
Adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce high enough levels of steroid hormones, including DHEA. This condition can result in fatigue, weakness, and changes in blood pressure. DHEA supplements have been found to reduce the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency and improving the quality of life in individuals.
Sexual Function, Fertility, & Libido
Studies suggest DHEA supplements may improve sexual function, fertility, and libido. In a study conducted among women experiencing a diminished ovarian reserve, DHEA supplements increased the success of IVF in 25 women. The women involved in the study underwent IVF before and after DHEA treatment. After treatment, the women produced more eggs and experienced a higher amount of eggs being fertilized - 67% versus 39% before treatment.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and organs. Women with lupus experience lower DHEA levels. Some research shows that DHEA supplements may improve a number of symptoms of lupus.