Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a naturally occurring steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland, gonads and brain. The body uses DHEA to make estrogens and androgens. DHEA supplements can be made in the lab from chemicals found in wild yam and soy. Since the body’s natural levels of DHEA generally begin to reduction after a person reaches 30 years of age. Individuals who are 70, tend to have DHEA levels approximately 80% lower than young adults.
DHEA Benefits and Researches
Low DHEA levels are correlated with depression and depressed mood. There is some early test findings that DHEA might improve mood and help depression. In a 6-week preliminary study, investigators from the “National Institute of Mental Health” found that therapy with DHEA supplements helped alleviate mild to moderate depression that occurs in some middle-aged people. The study also demonstrated significant improvements in sexual functioning scores in supplemented participants. Twenty-four healthy young men were given DHEA for 7 days; DHEA administration improved memory and mood. (Psychopharmacology. 2006 November). A clinical study performed by Dr. Samuel Yen and his associates in 1994 had important findings. At the end of the study period, 67% of the men and 82 % of the women reported an improvement in sleep, ability to cope with stress and basic well-being.
Also called adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands. It affects the production of 2 essential hormones called cortisol and aldosterone. DHEA is one of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. With adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal glands do not make sufficient hormones, including DHEA and cortisol. Some researches indicate that DHEA may improve well-being, quality of life, exercise capacity, sex drive, and hormone levels in individuals with Addison’s disease. In a study, scientists from Germany W. Arlt et al. gave 50 mg doses or placebo to 24 women with adrenal insufficiency for 4 months. They found that blood levels of DHEAS and testosterone went up to normal. The DHEA improved sexual interest and satisfaction, and decreased anxiety and depression over the placebo group.
DHEA improves erectile dysfunction because of its androgenic effects. In a 2000 study from Urology, scientists evaluated 442 men and found that DHEA levels were lower in those with erectile dysfunction until age 60. A clinical trial enrolled 40 men with erectile dysfunction who had low measured levels of DHEA. The results demonstrated that DHEA at a dose of 50 mg daily significantly healed sexual performance.
DHEA may help replace hormones in postmenopausal women. The hormone DHEA has been found to help alleviate menopausal symptoms in women, as well as helping them improve their sex lives, Italian scientists wrote in the Climacteric, the peer-reviewed journal of the International Menopause Society. The findings of a twelve-week study involving postmenopausal women who were given daily doses of DHEA intravaginally demonstrated rapid and beneficial improvements in sexual function and vaginal atrophy, without changes in their serum sex steroid levels. In a study, DHEA has been given as a 10% cream for twelve months to fifteen 60-70 year old women. A reduction in fat and an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in fasting glucose and insulin levels was noted.
Available findings show that DHEA improves ovarian function, increases pregnancy chances and, by reducing aneuploidy, lowers miscarriage rates. DHEA over time appears to objectively improve ovarian reserve. New animal data support androgens in promoting preantral follicle growth and reduction in follicle atresia. DHEA has been reported to improve pregnancy chances with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) and is utilized by almost one third of all IVF centers world-wide. A study reported in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology found that DHEA supplement reduction the chances of miscarriage among women who had been diagnosed with decreased ovarian reserve. In 2010, scientists from Tel Aviv University performed the first controlled study of DHEA supplementation in women undergoing fertility therapy for poor ovulation. Prof. Adrian Shulman of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Meir Medical Center has found a statistical connection between the supplement DHEA, and successful pregnancy rates in women undergoing treatment for infertility. The treatment group, which consisted of 20 women, received 75mg of DHEA supplementation daily for 40 days before starting fertility therapy and continued for up to 5 months. The results demonstrated that the women who received DHEA supplements were three times more likely to conceive compared to the women who just received fertility therapy alone. “In the DHEA group, there was a 23% live birth rate as opposed to a 4% rate in the control group. We recommend that women try this DHEA treatment, in conjunction with fertility treatments, for four to five months,” explains Prof. Shulman.
DHEA increases bone health by improving mineralization to reduce fracture risk. DHEA therapy may help fight osteoporosis in women over 70 and is beneficial in preventing osteoporosis in women. Large statistical studies indicate a correlation between low DHEA levels and osteoporosis. A 2000 study showed improved bone turnover during a year-long study of daily 50 mg supplementation with DHEA. A clinical study of 50 mg per day of DHEA administered orally versus placebo for twelve months demonstrated improved hip BMD (bone mineral density) in older men and women with low DHEA-S (DHEA-S is the sulfated form of DHEA) levels, with additional improvements in spine BMD in women. Taking a DHEA supplement combined with calcium and vitamin D can significantly improve spinal bone density in older women, according to a research from a Saint Louis University scientists at Washington University. According to Edward Weiss, lead author of the study, patients who achieve similar increases of 2 to 4 % in spinal bone density with the help of medication experience a 30 to 50 % reduction in risk of spine fractures. Also, scientists say that the increase in spinal bone density experienced by women in the test group who took DHEA for 2 years, is at least as efficacious as other current treatments including estrogen and bisphosphonates. Results were reported in the May 2009 edition of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition“.
Low DHEA levels are associated with increased cardiovascular risk. A 1995 study by Herrington, reported at the “New York Academy of Sciences“, found significantly lower blood levels of DHEA in men who had blocked arteries. In a twelve year study of over 240 men aged 50 to 79 years, scientists found that DHEA levels were inversely correlated with mortality, both from heart disease and from all other causes. A 2009 study of 153 diabetic men with stable CHD (coronary heart disease) found that 77 percent were DHEA-S deficiency, significantly more than in healthy peers. A follow-up study demonstrated that the degree of development of atherosclerosis in 63 heart transplant patients was inversely correlate with DHEA levels. According to a research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 25 mg per day of DHEA improves endothelial function. In a animal-based study; when scientists gave DHEA to rabbits with atherosclerotic arteries, the hormone produced a 50 % reduction in arterial plaques.
The new researches show that DHEA supplement may exert strong neuroprotective properties. Two large studies demonstrated that levels of DHEA-S in elderly people correlated significantly and positively with cognitive function. A study conducted in 2007 demonstrated that DHEA supplement of 150 mg twice daily improved memory recall and mood in healthy young men, particularly increasing activity in the hippocampus. Women with naturally higher levels of the hormone precursor DHEAS were found to have better cognitive function than women with lower levels, according to a study published of the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism”.
In a 2004 research on DHEA’s effects on the human nervous system, researchers found that DHEA both increased the amount of neurons produced by stem cells and increased cell division in the brain. DHEA levels in patients who have Alzheimer’s are much lower than in people who don’t have the disease. Some evidence indicate a positive effect of DHEA supplement in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In a clinical trial, patients who took 50 mg twice daily for 6 months had significantly better mental performance. Multi-infarct dementia is a form of dementia caused by a series of small strokes.
Patients with deterioration of mental functions resulting from multi-infarct dementia may have lower than normal dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) levels. In a preliminary study, intravenous injection of 200 mg per day of DHEAS for 4 weeks increased DHEAS levels and improved some aspects of mental function and performance of daily activities.
Research has shown that low DHEA levels in the blood are associated a decline in immune competence. Oral and subcutaneous DHEA has been observed to protect rodents against the lethality of RNA and DNA viruses, and lethal bacterial infections. A study conducted by researcher Samuel Yen of the “University of California“; After measuring baseline immune parameters in healthy older men, dr Yen give the men on a program of 50 mg of DHEA per day. After twenty weeks, the men demonstrated important improvement in all markers of immune function, including an average of 45% increases in monocytes, 29 % increases in antibody-making B lymphocytes, 20 % increases in T lymphocyte activation, and 22 to 37% increases in NK (natural killer) cells.
A clinical trial, of healthy, nonsmoking men in their 50s & 60s taking 50 mg of DHEA daily demonstrated rejuvenation of the immune system by increased secretion of the cytokine IL-2 (InterLeukin-2), which is a strong T-cell growth factor. Elderly individuals usually fail to develop sufficient antibody response to vaccination. A study in elderly people demonstrated that 100 mg a day of DHEA markedly enhanced the antibody response to the influenza vaccine. A new study found a potent inverse correlation between human serum DHEA-S levels and IL-6 (interleukin 6) levels. High interleukin 6 levels are implicated as a causal factor in many diseases, such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and atherosclerosis.After studying 120 healthy human participants 15-75 years of age, RH Straub and colleagues concluded: “decreased DHEA serum concentrations during aging or inflammatory diseases will be paralleled by a significant increase in IL-6 production. Thus, we conclude that the decrease in DHEA levels is a deleterious process, in particular during chronic inflammatory diseases.”
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Low blood levels of the hormone DHEA and the related compound DHEA-sulfate have been correlated with more severe symptoms in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Suppression of IL-6 with 200 mg a day of DHEA was shown to be effective against SLE. Scientists at Stanford University gave DHEA to 57 women with lupus. Approximately two-thirds of the women reported some reduction of their symptoms, including reduced frequency and severity of joint pain, rashes, fatigue and headaches. A 12-month, clinical study of 381 women with mild or moderate lupus investigated the effects of DHEA at a dose of 200 mg daily. While patients in both treatment and placebo groups improved DHEA was more effective, reducing many symptoms of the disease. In another study of 120 women with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus), use of DHEA at a dose of 200 mg daily significantly decreased symptoms and reduced the frequency of disease flare-ups. A 2007 review of all published studies found that use of DHEA may meaningfully improve quality of life in the short term for patients with lupus.
DHEA levels appear to be low in patients with ulcerative colitis. In a study 6 of 13 patients with ulcerative colitis went into remission after taking 200 mg per day of DHEA for 8 weeks.
DHEA is low in people with Crohn’s Disease. In a clinical trial, 6 of 7 patients with Crohn’s disease went into remission after taking DHEA for 8 weeks.
The normal recommended daily dose range is 10 to 50 mg for women, 25 to 100 mg for men. Women usually need less DHEA than men. Since blood levels of DHEA are highest in the morning, supplement DHEA should be taken in the morning, to follow the body’s natural rhythm. Controlled studies lasting between 6 months and a year at doses ranging from 25 to 200 milligrams daily have shown DHEA to be safe. Your physician can determine whether your DHEA levels are low (less than 180 mg/dl in men and less than 130 mg/dl in women). Individuals under 40 shouldn’t take DHEA unless they have low levels as determined by their physicians. DHEA supplements should be avoided in women and men who have had cancer or who have a potent family history of cancer until further research can establish whether or not it is safe for these people.