Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)?

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is the most abundant hormone in the steroidfamily 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 notappear to be effective for improving general well-being in seniors. Keep in mind that DHEA is not a natural supplement. The...

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. 2 Inconsistent evidence suggests that use of DHEA might improve sexual function in older, but not in younger, women. 3 DHEA has shown some promise for improving erectile dysfunction in men who have low DHEA blood levels to begin with. 4 Three double-blind studies hint that DHEA might be helpful for depression . 5 The best evidence involves treating mild depression...

Safety Issues

DHEA appears to be safe when taken in therapeutic doses, at least in the short term. One study found no significant side effects in 50 women who took up to 200 mg daily for up to 1 year. 6 And, in another study, 93 postmenopausal women who took 50 mg of DHEA daily, also for 1 year, experienced no adverse changes in their uterine lining, blood lipids (cholesterol), or insulin sensitivity. 7 However, in two other studies DHEA, at doses as low as 25 mg per day, decreased levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. 8 In addition, in women, DHEA may increase levels of male sex hormones along with estrogens and progesterone. 9 This could lead to acne and growth of facial and body hair. 10 Effects on hormones in men may be less significant, 11 although one study in...