DHEA – Latest Research Included

Full Disclosure

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal glands that is sold in supplement form. The body utilizes DHEA to create the male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. As you age, the levels of both begin to decrease in the end, ranging from one-tenth up to one-twentieth, which can be found in a person who is 25 years old.

When you consume DHEA with a supplementation program, specific experts believe that you might be able to slow the aging process and increase muscle mass, increase fertility, and treat medical issues such as depression and osteoporosis. The studies conducted to support these claims tend to be insufficient.

DHEA comes in various forms, including tablets and capsules, powders, tinctures, and creams for topical use. It is available online and in many pharmacies and nutritional supplement stores.

This article focuses on the potential benefits and risks associated with the use of DHEA supplements, including adverse reactions or drug-drug interactions. It also provides tips regarding how to use DHEA supplements safely.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient: Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Alternate names: 3b-hydroxyandrost-5-en-17-one, 3b-hydroxy-5-androsten-17-one, androstenolone, prasterone
  • Status legal: Used an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement that has been accepted by the FDA in the case of prescription drugs Intrarosa (prasterone)
  • Safety concerns: Contraindicated for use in nursing mothers or those who are pregnant and those who have a history of hormone-sensitive cancers

What Is DHEA Used For?

While DHEA is claimed to treat or prevent a variety of unrelated medical conditions, the evidence supporting the benefits of DHEA supplements is not conclusive.

Here's what the most recent clinical research suggests:

Aging Skin

In the theory of things, taking DHEA can slow the aging process by restoring testosterone and estrogen levels to what they were when you were in your 20s. Both of them are known to boost collagen production within the skin. In this way, your skin will appear more plump and have fewer wrinkles.

Certain studies have suggested that DHEA supplements could help reduce or even reverse the appearance of thin skin, also known as skin atrophy. However, most studies are small, often as small as a single case study, making it difficult to draw a reliable conclusion.

A 2014 study published by the Journal of Drugs found no conclusive evidence for an anti-aging benefit. Still, it noted that large-scale research might help “support the belief that DHEA isn't just an unpopular diet supplement.”

Pain During Sex

In 2016 2016 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the type of DHEA known as Intrarosa (prasterone). The vaginal suppository can be used regularly to relieve discomfort during sexual activity in postmenopausal women.

In clinical trials, Intrarosa has proven to reduce dryness in the vagina efficiently and stinging during sex without causing any significant adverse unwanted side negative effects.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis refers to bone loss in postmenopausal women due to drastic decreases in estrogen levels. DHEA could delay or prevent osteoporosis by restoring estrogen levels.

So far, research studies that have evaluated the advantages of DHEA for people suffering from osteoporosis have had mixed results.

A review of research conducted in 2019 in Gynecology and Endocrinology indicates that DHEA could increase bone mineral density in females' hip and thigh bones. This effect appears to increase with the magnitude of the dosage.

However, not all receiving treatment saw improvement, and there was no evidence of benefits for males. Further research is required.

Depression

DHEA could help people suffering from depression.

A review of 15 controlled studies randomized to control found that DHEA was more effective in achieving a positive effect on those suffering from depression than placebo, but not enough to warrant it as treatment. Researchers found that the standard of studies was generally poor.

Infertility

A study in 2021 that involved 777 women who had undergone the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) revealed that women older than 38 receiving DHEA supplements had a higher chance of becoming pregnant than those who were not.

The results were limited due to the study's small sample size and the limitation that only 20 participants were given DHEA. The results were not evident in women younger than 38.

A 2015 review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that DHEA could improve the birth rate in women who don't first respond to IVF; however, there was no evidence that other groups would gain from it.

Other Uses

DHEA is being studied for the treatment of various non-related ailments, such as adrenal insufficiency, lupus, IBS, and asthma. Studies so far have been limited, and the results are not conclusive.

DHEA is believed by a few to boost athletic performance, treat sexual dysfunction, and boost your immune system. Studies have not confirmed these claims.

DHEA supplements are often advertised as testosterone boosters that increase muscle size and decrease fat. Despite the emotional marketing, however, no evidence to support this has been established.

The FDA does not accept DHEA to treat any medical condition, with one exception: Intrarose (prasterone), which is used to treat painful sexual arousal for post-menopausal women.

What Are the Side Effects of DHEA?

Like other products, DHEA can cause adverse side effects. The primary issue is the impact it can have on testosterone or estrogen levels. Increasing these hormones can cause adverse reactions.

However, DHEA is generally considered safe when administered 50 mg per day for adults. Higher doses might not be as secure.

Common adverse reactions of DHEA are:

  • Skin oily
  • Acne
  • Afraid stomach

If taken in large doses or over more extended periods, DHEA could result in the following:

  • Male-pattern hair loss
  • Abnormal hair growth (hirsutism)
  • Atypical breast growth in males (gynecomastia)

For those who are using Intrarosa vaginal suppositories, the most frequently reported adverse reaction was a slight vaginal discharge.

How to Choose Supplements

Dietary supplements aren't strictly controlled within the United States. To ensure their purity, choose products independently evaluated by a third-party body that certifies the product, such as NSF International, the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLabs, or NSF International.

The certification does not guarantee that the product is secure or efficient. It only signifies that the product contains the ingredients stated on the label in the amount stated and without pollutants or other impurities.

Precautions for Taking DHEA

Certain groups of which DHEA is best taken with caution or not used ultimately:

  • Pregnant or nursing mothers are not advised to consume DHEA supplements because of the absence of safety studies.
  • Anyone who has a previous history of stroke or heart disease is advised to stay clear of DHEA supplements.
  • Patients suffering from liver disease and high cholesterol, diabetes, blood clotting disorders, as well as hormonal disorders should take DHEA with the guidance of a medical doctor.
  • Patients with cancers that are hormone sensitive, like breast cancer, prostate or ovarian cancer, should not use DHEA.
  • A high DHEA level has been associated with the development of psychotic symptoms. Patients with mental disorders must only take DHEA in conjunction with a health physician.
  • DHEA can aggravate symptoms of polycystic ovary disorder (PCOS) and could require to be kept out of the equation.

The rules set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) may ban athletes using DHEA from sporting events.

DHEA Dosage: How Much Should I Take?

DHEA supplements can be purchased in various varieties, such as capsules, tablets, liquids, topical creams, tinctures, and intravaginal Suppositories. The DHEA used in supplements is produced in a lab using wild yams. Yams contain a steroid derived from plants called diosgenin, which is converted in the lab to DHEA.

There isn't any recommended dosage for oral DHEA supplements. The following studies have shown the dosages safe and tolerable.

  • Oral DHEA: 30-50 mg once a day through the mouth
  • Intrarose (prasterone): 0.25% to 1%, applied every day for 12 weeks

As a rule, don't exceed the recommended dosage on the product's label. DHEA is best stored at room temperature and should be removed by expiration.

Are There Interactions With Medications?

DHEA supplements shouldn't be used with any of the following medications due to the possibility of interactions

  • Treatments for cancers that are estrogen sensitive, including aromatase inhibitors such as Arimidex (anastrozole), Aromasin (exemestane) as well as Femara (letrozole) as well as estrogen receptor antagonists such as Faslodex (fulvestrant) along with Nolvadex (tamoxifen)
  • Blood thinners: This includes aspirin, heparin and warfarin, Plavix (clopidogrel), Eliquis (apixaban), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as Advil (ibuprofen) along with Celebrex (diclofenac)
  • Herbal supplements, including garlic, fish oil, Ginseng, ginkgo, and ginger, influence blood clotting.
  • Antidepressants include Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), Cymbalta (duloxetine), and many more.
  • Drugs are broken down by liver enzymes called CYP450, which includes Depakote (valproic acid), Mevacor (lovastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Nizoral (ketoconazole), Viagra (sildenafil), Halcion (triazolam), and many more.
  • Licorice: It can raise DHEA levels, as well as the potential for side consequences

Consult your physician when you plan to use DHEA to treat any condition. To prevent any interactions, you should provide them with a list of your medications, including herbal, pharmaceutical, over-the-counter, and homeopathic medications.

Summary

DHEA is a natural hormone used to make testosterone and estrogen. It is also advertised as a supplement. Certain experts believe it could help reverse the effects of aging, treat osteoporosis and infertility, boost muscle size, and aid in weight loss. So far, the evidence for these claims is not strong.

The only use that is approved for DHEA is a suppository for intravaginal use known as Intrarosa (prasterone), which is used to treat painful bowel movements for postmenopausal women.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can the use of DHEA supplements help me in my training?

There is no evidence to suggest that DHEA enhances athletic or exercise performance. While DHEA can be advertised as a product for athletes in the U.S., it is illegal in several countries. Organizations like the International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ban athletes from using DHEA.

What is DHEA-S?

DHEA-S stands for dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. It's a sexy male hormone, which is a type of DHEA. DHEA-S is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands of males and females. Similar to DHEA levels, DHEA-S levels naturally decrease as we age.

What are the signs of low DHEA?

When concentrations of DHEA in the blood drop, patients might experience these symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Salt cravings
  • Low Sex Drive
  • Erectile dysfunction (males)
  • Vaginal tissue things (females)
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