Benefits of DHEA Supplements: Dosage and Side Effects

Dehydroepiandrosterone, known as DHEA, is a steroid hormone. The body naturally synthesise it and plays a variety of functions. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a naturally occurring hormone and a common supplement that has many health benefits. Hence, it can increase bone density, decrease body fat, boost the sexual function and correct some hormonal imbalances.

DHEA Role in the Human Body

DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone that your body produces on its own [1]. Your body can transform it into the main testosterone and estrogen male and female sex hormones [2]. After this conversion, it may take effects on the actions of testosterone and estrogen, and by the DHEA molecule itself.

Your body can make DHEA naturally. Some people want to know why should they consume it as a supplement. The key reason is that the levels of DHEA decrease as you age, and this decrease can cause health problems.

In addition, during adulthood, DHEA decreases by up to 80%. This is not only relevant for older adults, since levels start decreasing around the age of 30 [3], [4], [5]. Lower levels of DHEA can increase the risk of heart disease, depression, and mortality [6], [7].

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When you take dehydroepiandrosterone as a supplement, your body increases its levels. Some of it also transforms into testosterone and oestrogen.

Your body can convert DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, into the primary male and female sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen. Its deficiency can raise the risk of heart disease, depression, and death.

DHEA and Depression

DHEA’s relationship with depression is complex. Some research shows that women with depression had higher levels of this hormone than women without depression [8]. However, individuals with severe depression have lower DHEA levels than those with milder depression [6].

While the connection between DHEA and depression is not clear, researchers have been investigating whether taking DHEA as a supplement may benefit people with depression symptoms. Some research has shown that it can help in treating depression, in people with mild depression, or in those who do not respond to normal treatment [9].

Other studies in healthy, middle-aged, and elderly adults showed no improvement in mental function [10], [11], [12]. Some researchers even caution against its use, as higher levels of DHEA in the body can increase depression symptoms in middle-aged women [11]. Overall, we need more studies before recommending DHEA for depression treatment.

The link between DHEA and depression is complicated. Some study suggests that it can aid in the treatment of depression, particularly in persons with mild depression or those who do not respond to standard treatment.

Can Fix Adrenal Problems

One of DHEA’s major producers inside the body is the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys [1]. Some individuals suffer from a condition called adrenal insufficiency, in which the adrenal glands can not produce normal hormone amounts.

The disorder can cause tiredness, fatigue, and blood pressure problems. It may even advance to become life threatening. DHEA supplements may treat adrenal insufficiency symptoms. Some research shows that supplementing with DHEA can improve the quality of life [13], [14], [15].

DHEA can decrease feelings of anxiety and depression in women with adrenal insufficiency [16]. This means it can improve overall well-being and sexual satisfaction. If you are suffering from adrenal insufficiency or other adrenal problems, ask your doctor if DHEA can provide benefits.

The adrenal glands, which are on top of the kidneys, produce DHEA. Adrenal insufficiency is a condition that affects some people. The disease can cause weariness, lethargy, and high blood pressure.

Can Improve Fertility and Libido

It’s no surprise that a supplement that affects sex hormones for males and females also affects sexual function. For starters, DHEA supplements can enhance ovarian function in women with impaired fertility. It increased the effectiveness of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 25 females with fertility problems [17].

These women were suffering from IVF before and after treatment with DHEA. The women produced more eggs after treatment and it fertilized a higher percentage of eggs 67% compared to 39% before treatment. One study found that women who took DHEA supplements during IVF had a live birth rate of 23% compared to the control group’s 4% live birth rate [18].

Several studies have shown that these supplements can increase both men’s and women’s libido and sexual function [19], [20], [21]. People who have sexual function problems can benefit from this supplement. Often, without sexual problems, you cannot benefit from it [22], [23].

DHEA supplements can improve ovarian function in women who are infertile. It improved the success rate of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in 25 females with infertility issues.

Can Increase Bone Density

Low levels of DHEA can lower the bone density that decreases as your age [24], [25]. Also, low levels of DHEA can increase bone fracture risk [26]. Several studies have investigated whether DHEA would increase the bone density of older adults because of these connections. Some research shows that taking this supplement for one to two years in older women may improve bone density but not men [27], [28].

Certain studies have found no bone density benefits after DHEA supplementation, but most of these studies have lasted six months or fewer [29], [30], [31]. Therefore, you need to take the DHEA supplement for longer periods to get the bone density benefits, and this impact may be stronger for older women.

Taking this supplement for one to two years may improve bone density in elderly women, but not in men. Some studies have showed no improvements to bone density after taking the supplement for six months or fewer, implying that you need to take it for a longer time to notice results.

DHEA Effects on Fat Burning

Most research shows DHEA is not effective in reducing fat mass [32], [33], [34], [35], [36], [37]. However, some evidence suggests that DHEA supplements in older men or adults whose adrenal glands do not function can produce slight decreases in fat mass [38], [39]. In one study of patients with adrenal gland problems, DHEA decreased fat mass by 4% over four months [39].

However, the effects of regular DHEA supplements on fat mass are not clear. Other forms of DHEA may be more effective in body fat burning processes. The 7-Keto DHEA can increase the metabolic rate in both men and women overweight [40]. Also, it can decrease body weight and fat mass three times more after taking 7-Keto DHEA supplements.

Individuals taking the supplement lost about 6.4 pounds (2.9 kg) of body weight and 1.8% body fat in this study [41]. Those in the placebo group lost just 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of body fat, that is 0.6%. The 7-Keto DHEA might help you lose fat. However, we need more research.

7-Keto DHEA can increase the metabolic rate of both men and women who are. After using supplements, it can reduce body weight and fat mass three times more. People that took the supplement shed 6.4 pounds (2.9 kg) of body weight and 1.8% of their body fat.

Effects of DHEA on Muscle and Strength

Some assume that DHEA can increase muscle mass or muscle growth because of its ability to increase testosterone levels [38]. Most research shows taking DHEA supplements does not increase muscle mass or muscle strength [42], [32], [43], [33], [44], [34], [35].

In comparison, a small amount of research suggests that this supplement can improve strength and physical performance in weak, older adults or those with underactive adrenal glands [29], [45], [46]. Several studies found it had no effect on physical performance in older adults, but others found it improved upper and lower body strength [45].

Overall, because a significant number of studies have found no benefits for muscle size or strength, DHEA is most likely ineffective in these areas.

Because of its propensity to enhance testosterone levels, some people believe DHEA can promote muscle mass or growth. Most research shows that this does not function in young, middle-aged, or elderly persons. It may increase physical performance in elderly people, those who are frail, or those who have issues with their adrenal glands.

While there are many reports of 10 to 500 mg doses. A typical dose should be 25 to 50 mg per day [9], [22], [23]. In terms of time frame, for one year a dose of 50 mg per day is safe, and for two years you can use 25 mg per day safely. DHEA supplements are used safely for up to two years in these studies [36], [47].

Minor side effects reported in the armpits and pubic area included greasy skin, acne, and increased hair growth [4]. Specifically, those with cancers affected by sex hormones should not take DHEA supplements [4]. Talking to a doctor is best before you take DHEA supplements.

A dose of 50mg is safe for one year, while a dose of 25mg daily is safe for two years. Those who have tumours that are impacted by sex hormones should avoid using these supplements.

Conclusion

Taking DHEA is probably unnecessary for young, healthy individuals. Your body can make this hormone, and more of it isn’t better. However, some individuals, particularly older adults and those with certain adrenal, sexual or fertility issues, may benefit from DHEA supplementation. If you are considering taking this supplement, we recommend you consult with your doctor.

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