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DHEA – Dehydroepiandrosterone

Alternative medicine information is provided as a service to familiarize physicians and their patients with medicinal claims available through the media.  This does NOT constitute a treatment recommendation.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is converted to testosterone and estrogen. DHEA production peaks in your 20’s, and declines about 10% every 10 years in both men and women. Research suggests that low DHEA levels have been associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, immune system disorders, and osteoporosis.  Low DHEA levels can lead to chronic fatigue, weakness, depression, headaches, and susceptibility to infections and disease. It may have a role in AIDS and cancer. DHEA works to maintain normal sex hormone levels, inhibit negative effects of stress, and increase antioxidant enzyme production. DHEA is claimed to improve and prevent age related diseases, thus it is used as an anti-aging treatment. All in all, research suggests that DHEA works to prevent oncoming disease. One researcher stated that DHEA will not make people live longer, but will improve quality of life and postpone the unpleasant effects of aging.

Potential Uses:

DHEA supplements have claims to be able to:

  • Improve mood
  • Increase energy and libido
  • Counteract stress effects
  • Preserve muscle
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Prevent cancer and heart disease
  • Elevate mood and a sense of physical well-being
  • Help the body burn calories, rather than store them as fat

Presumed Mechanisms:

  • DHEA counteracts the body’s stress hormone, and thus has anti-aging effects.
  • It may help prevent cancer by blocking an enzyme needed for cancer cell growth.


  • You may not need additional DHEA if you are under age 40.
  • Those who should not take DHEA include:  Pregnant or nursing women, or those having prior ovarian, adrenal or thyroid tumors.
  • Side effects may occur with daily doses over 50mg, including acne, irritability, fatigue, and excess body hair in women.

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