Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA):
What is it?

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA):
How is it Used?

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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Usage

Therapeutic Uses

Much of the evidence of benefits with DHEA involves results seen in women.

A meaningful body of evidence indicates DHEA may help reduce symptoms in women with lupus, but it probably does not alter the long-term course of the disease. ^[1] Some evidence hints that DHEA may be helpful for preventing or treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, especially those over age 70; benefits for men remain in doubt. ^[3] Inconsistent evidence suggests that use of DHEA might improve sexual function in older, but not in younger, women. ^[5] DHEA has shown some promise for improving erectile dysfunction in men who have low DHEA blood levels to begin with. ^[7] Three double-blind studies hint that DHEA might be helpful for depression . ^[9] The best evidence involves treating mild depression in people with HIV . ^[11] Two studies suggest that DHEA might improve subjective feelings of well-being in people with HIV ; presumably this is a related result. ^[13] However, another small trial failed to find benefits. ^[14]

Note:DHEA does not appear to provide general benefits for people with HIV, such as improving immunity, suppressing virus levels, or aiding weight maintenance. ^[15] DHEA might also be helpful for people with adrenal failure, according to some ^[16] but not all ^[17] studies. Note:The term “adrenal failure” refers to total loss of function of the adrenal glands, caused by surgery or infection. The term "adrenal weakness" as used by practitioners of naturopathy refers to something more subtle and vague. DHEA might also be helpful for women with inadequate pituitary function who require growth hormone replacement therapy. ^[18] Preliminary and somewhat inconsistent evidence suggest that DHEA might enhance the effects of drug treatment of schizophrenia . ^[20] In addition, DHEA might reduce Parkinson's disease-like side effects caused by antipsychotic drugs in the phenothiazine family. ^[22] Highly preliminary evidence suggests that DHEA might help improve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome , ^[24] improve immune response to vaccinations, ^[26] and strengthen immunity following burns. ^[27] Weak evidence also suggests that DHEA supplements might reduce the risk of heart disease , especially in men. ^[29] One small double-blind study found evidence that DHEA at a dose of 25 mg daily might reduce menopausal symptoms ; however, in this study, use of DHEA led to altered levels of numerous other hormones, suggesting a potential for hazardous side-effects. ^[31] For several other proposed uses of DHEA, study results are more negative than positive.

Primarily because DHEA naturally decreases with age, this hormone has been widely hyped as a kind of fountain of youth. However, at least 10 studies have found that DHEA supplementation does not improve mood, mental function, or general well-being in older people, ^[33] and 4 studies found that use of DHEA does not increase muscle mass in seniors. ^[34] However, there is weak evidence that it might improve signs of aging skin . ^[36] One study did find potential memory-enhancing benefits in younger people. ^[37] Athletes have used DHEA on the controversial assumption that it limits the body's response to cortisol and thereby causes an increase in muscle tissue growth. ^[38] However, current evidence remains more negative than positive as to whether DHEA aids muscle building or enhances sports performance ability . ^[40] In a 6-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 58 people with Alzheimer’s disease , use of DHEA at 50 mg twice daily did not improve symptoms. ^[42] A 12-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study failed to find DHEA helpful for Sjogren's syndrome. ^[44] The researchers noted that the belief by participants that they were being given DHEA instead of placebo “was a stronger predictor for improvement of fatigue and well-being than the actual use of DHEA.” A previous double-blind, placebo-controlled study also failed to find benefit. ^[45] Another study failed to find DHEA helpful for fibromyalgia . ^[47] Despite evidence from one preliminary study, ^[48] DHEA does not appear to improve blood sugar control in seniors. ^[49] DHEA has been proposed as an aid to weight loss , but the little evidence that is available suggests that it does not work. ^[51] A supplement related to DHEA, 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone (also called 7-oxy or 7-keto-DHEA), has also been advocated for enhancing weight loss, and there is at least a small amount of supporting evidence. ^[52]