Supplementing with DHEA should be discussed with ones PCP.
DHEA is a hormone that is naturally made by the human body. It can be made in the laboratory from chemicals found in wild yam and soy. However, the human body cannot make DHEA from these chemicals, so simply eating wild yam or soy will not increase DHEA levels. Don’t be misled by wild yam and soy products labeled as “natural DHEA.”
DHEA is used for slowing or reversing aging, improving thinking skills in older people, and slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
Athletes and other people use DHEA to increase muscle mass, strength, and energy. But DHEA use is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
DHEA is also used by men for erectile dysfunction (ED), and by healthy women and women who have low levels of certain hormones to improve well-being and sexuality.
Some people try DHEA to treat systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), weak bones (osteoporosis), multiple sclerosis (MS), low levels of steroid hormones (Addison’s disease), depression, schizophrenia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. It is also used for preventing heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
DHEA is used for weight loss, for decreasing the symptoms of menopause, and for boosting the immune system.
People with HIV sometimes use DHEA to ease depression and fatigue.
Women who have passed menopause sometimes use DHEA inside the vagina for strengthening the walls of the vagina and for increasing bone mineral density.
Like many dietary supplements, DHEA has some quality control problems. Some products labeled to contain DHEA have been found to contain no DHEA at all, while others contained more than the labeled amount.
DHEA is being investigated and may eventually be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a prescription drug for treating systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and improving bone mineral density in women with lupus who are taking steroid drugs for treatment. The FDA is still studying the pharmaceutical company’s application for approval.
How does it work?
DHEA is a “parent hormone” produced by the adrenal glands near the kidneys and in the liver. In men, DHEA is also secreted by the testes. It is changed in the body to a hormone called androstenedione. Androstenedione is then changed into the major male and female hormones.
DHEA levels seem to go down as people get older. DHEA levels also seem to be lower in people with certain conditions like depression. Some researchers think that replacing DHEA with supplements might prevent some diseases and conditions.