Last Updated on January 1, 2021 by Jim Marshall
Note: this is an informational overview of DHEA. For a list of recommended supplements, please see the Best DHEA Supplements of 2023.
What Is DHEA?
is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal glands of men and women, and also by the testes in men.
The amount of DHEA peaks as you grow into an adult and on into your 20’s, then slowly drops as you age.
DHEA supplementation is popular among those looking to improve physical performance, build muscle, and to help stop the aging process.
Function of DHEA
Also referred to as androstenolone, DHEA is one of the most abundantly produced steroid hormones in the human body.
It is considered a precursor hormone, meaning that it plays a key role in the production of other hormones.
In men, DHEA is responsible for about half of all testosterone produced, and approximately 75% of the estrogen found in women is derived from DHEA.
Besides being a precursor to androgens and estrogens, DHEA is responsible for maintaining hormonal balance and dozens of metabolic functions.
Aging and DHEA Production
Age does play a role in the amount of DHEA that is produced in your body.
Typically, DHEA production within men begins to decrease after the age of 30.
As you grow from childhood into your teen years and on into early adulthood, your body is still producing DHEA.
With each decade that passes beyond the age of 30, you will see a significant decline.
The following table below shows an example of normal levels of DHEA Sulfate that can be found in men according to age group (measurements for women will be different as well).
Keep in mind that they are measured in micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) and micromoles per liter (µmol/L).
You will notice a trend occurring from the ages of 18 to about 29, where the numbers increase and peak.
As you get older, these numbers start to decline.
Again, your own individual levels will vary and could be different than these numbers.
Based off of the table above, you can see that drop from highest to lowest could potentially be from 640 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) to 28 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) from ages 20 – 29 to ages 69 and over, and 17.28 micromoles per liter (µmol/L) to 0.76 micromoles per liter (µmol/L) during the same time period.
As we’ve discussed why one may want to take DHEA supplements and normal levels, here’s a look at some of the benefits.
Alongside anti-aging runs a similar benefit, which is the way one’s body performs and looks.
Benefits of Supplementation
For those over the age of 30, there are many potential benefits that can be had from supplementing with DHEA.
In the case of a medical condition, there could be improvement within that specific condition.
DHEA is also rather popular among fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and bodybuilders.
Some users have reported gains in strength and muscular development, increased sex drive, decreased body fat, elevated mood, among other benefits.
Here are some of the ways that DHEA supplementation has functioned for specific groups.
While there are many who claim that DHEA can be the “Fountain of Youth,” there isn’t much scientifically based information that supports this.
While in theory it makes sense that replacing a hormone that decreases as you age would help turn back the clock,
There have been individuals in professional sports who have used DHEA supplementation with the intention of doing so as a means of improving strength and performance.
While you can purchase and take this supplement, it has been banned by some professional sports such as the NFL and NBA.
For men, erectile dysfunction can present a difficult situation that can negatively impact self-esteem and romantic relationships.
As testosterone levels decline over time, there can be a dramatic reduction in sex drive and erection quality.
Research has shown that DHEA can be helpful with boosting libido and preventing ED, since it acts as a precursor to testosterone.
DHEA supplements are used to increase hormonal balance, which can lead to an overall lift to mood and a sense of well-being.
According to one study at UC San Fransisco, participants experiencing depression showed lower than normal levels of DHEA, and after supplementing with 30-90mg per day showed noticeable improvement.
However, there is not enough evidence to support the use of DHEA supplementation as a means for combating depression.
Likewise, there has also been research for it’s use in treating other psychiatric conditions, such as bipolar disorder, PTSD and schizophrenia, all with inconclusive results.
Some diseases can cause the body’s bone density to diminish.
Also called osteopenia, lower bone density can lead to an increase in risk for fractures.
If the condition deteriorates even further, it can lead to osteoporosis, which can greatly increase the risk for more serious bone fractures of the hip and spine.
Some reports and research have suggested that DHEA supplementation can help in this area, including an increase in spinal column density in men.
Studies show that DHEA can not only help promote weight loss, boost metabolism, and increase muscle mass, but can also decrease the risk of heart disease.
According to research, the primary reason for this reduction is due to the anti-inflammatory properties of DHEA.
It is becoming increasingly understood that chronic inflammation is detrimental to the body and may be responsible for many common conditions.
For this reason, DHEA supplementation may reduce the risk for heat disease and contribute to overall good health.
As if these benefits weren’t enough, there is even more reason to be optimistic about supplementation with DHEA.
Studies indicate that it could help protect against cancer, boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, and help fight allergies.
It may even help reduce cholesterol levels and reverse the symptoms of diabetes.
DHEA and Bodybuilding
You will find various opinions when it comes to DHEA and its role in the world of bodybuilding.
While many researchers debate this topic, many will agree that Dehydroepiandrosterone in the body is a precursor substance of other steroid hormones.
Now, whether or not this leads to better muscularity and strength gains in the field of bodybuilding, is still up for discussion.
You will find many who argue both sides of the issue.
So, now the question naturally comes up – How much should you take?
While there are a wide range of reasons that one may want to take DHEA supplements, the dosage will vary from person to person, case to case, and age to age.
This makes it critical that anyone looking to take such supplements, first consult with their physician to see what their levels are and how much they may need.
For some medical related conditions, the amount could be significantly higher than other cases.
For instance, some individuals with a condition such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), have shown improvement with dosages at 100 to 200 mg daily of DHEA.
Some experts believe that men in other circumstances (such as someone with a general DHEA deficiency) would need just 25 to 50 mg daily.
As you can see above, the dosage will vary from person to person and condition to condition as.
This makes it extremely important that you consult your physician before taking any DHEA supplements, or supplements in general.
As with any supplement that you may put in your body, there are some side effects that may come about.
One of these that can be found in men is aggression. Other side effects in men could be things such as acne, lower blood pressure and a decrease in the size of the testes.
Other potential side effects are things such as chest pain, dizziness, emotional changes, insomnia and restlessness.
There are many more potential side effects that could come about from taking a DHEA supplement, so be sure to do your due diligence if you plan on taking it.
As you have seen, there are many reasons that DHEA supplementation may be called for.
The best way to find out if you actually need it will depend on a visit to your doctor to see why you may need it, what your actual levels are, and just how much you will need to take.
While research may still need to be done in the different areas related to DHEA, what can be said is that a good number of individuals have reported benefits to taking it.
As with anything, be sure to do your homework and due diligence before deciding to take any DHEA supplements.
See Also: The Best DHEA Supplements of 2023.