The Bottom Line on DHEA
DHEA is shorthand for dehydroepiandrosterone, an endogenous (made in the human body) hormone and secreted by the adrenal gland. It serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). Its levels in the body begin to decrease after age 30, and there is a steady decline in both men and women. By age 80, people usually produce about 5% of the amount of the hormone they produced at 30.
Some studies show an increase in muscle mass by supplementing with the hormone. But this benefit occurs only in someone who is deficient in the hormone to start with. And still other studies show just the opposite of increased muscle mass. Instead, there is an increase in body fat and estrogen levels.
There is a lack of available studies on the long-term effects. However, it may cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens, and theoretically may increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers. Certainly, it is not recommended for regular use without supervision by a licensed health care professional.
Anyone considering such hormone treatment should do so only after a full blood chemistry exam and analysis of their hormonal status by their physician. Self-medicating is extremely risky behavior.
References and further information:
The National Library of Medicine
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