Principal Proposed Uses
Other Proposed Uses
Probably Not Effective Uses
- Enhancing General Well-being in Seniors
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is the most abundant hormone in the steroid family found in the bloodstream. Your body uses DHEA as the starting material for making the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen.
A meaningful body of evidence indicates that DHEA might be helpful for the autoimmune disease lupus, at least in women. DHEA may also help prevent osteoporosis (again, in women). Additionally, DHEA appears to be beneficial when taken along with standard treatment for women with adrenal failure.
Other uses with some evidence include improving sexual function in men and women and alleviating depression. DHEA does not appear to be effective for improving general well-being in seniors. Keep in mind that DHEA is not a natural supplement. The DHEA you can buy at the store is made by a synthetic chemical process, and it is a hormone, not a nutrient. Although DHEA appears to be safe to use in the short term, its safety when taken for prolonged periods is unknown.
The body makes its own DHEA; we get very little in our diets. DHEA production peaks early in life and begins to decline as we reach adulthood. By age 60, our bodies produce just 5% to 15% as much as when we were 20. It's not clear whether this decline in DHEA is a bad thing, but some believe that it may contribute to the aging process.
For use as a dietary supplement, DHEA is manufactured synthetically from substances found in soybeans. Contrary to popular belief, there is no DHEA in wild yam .
A typical therapeutic dosage of DHEA is 50 mg to 200 mg daily, although some studies used dosages above and below this range. A cream containing 10% DHEA may also be used; it is typically applied to the skin at a dosage of 3 g to 5 g daily.
Physicians sometimes check DHEA levels and adjust the daily dose to achieve blood levels of 20-30 nmol/L.
Much of the evidence of benefits with DHEA involves results seen in women.
For several other proposed uses of DHEA, study results are more negative than positive.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Dehydroepiandrosterone?
Improving Libido and Sexual Function in Women
Some evidence suggests that DHEA may be helpful for improving sexual function in older women, but not for younger women.
Improving Sexual Function in Men
Sports Performance Enhancement
We also don't know whether DHEA interacts with other hormone treatments, such as estrogen, although it certainly stands to reason that it might. The safety of DHEA in young children, pregnant or nursing women, and people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -