Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is what your body uses to naturally regulate production of 18 steroid hormones including sex hormones and stress hormones. DHEA is produced naturally from cholesterol in the gonads, within body fat, in the skin, in the brain and a large percent of DHEA production happens in the adrenal glands. DHEA is responsible for the production of 50% of testosterone in males and 75% of estrogen in females.
Through the production of other hormones, DHEA plays a natural role in increasing lean muscle mass, stimulating bone growth and burning fat. DHEA has been labeled the anti-aging drug by some. Studies have shown DHEA effective in controlling depression, improving mood, assisting with weight loss, and treating conditions such as systemic lupus.
Bodybuilders often supplement with DHEA to increase testosterone production. Testosterone is known to assist with building lean muscle mass. Doses of 100mg daily for up to a year have been used for muscle strength.
Regular exercise stimulates natural production of DHEA. Reducing caloric intake can also stimulate production of this hormone precursor. Supplementing with DHEA has been shown to reduce lipid and cholesterol levels. Use of DHEA has also been linked to a reduction in heart related problems including heart disease.
Restoration of levels of DHEA, in people with low DHEA levels, appears to reduce age-related physiological decline. DHEA supplementation has been used to treat adrenal insufficiency improving quality of life, increase exercise capacity, increase sex drive, and restore hormone levels in people with impaired adrenal function.
Age related benefits may be linked to the production of HGH, a growth hormone. DHEA has been suggested to decrease the effects of aging. DHEA doesn't, however, work as a perpetual fountain of youth. Claims of effectiveness in treating chronic fatigue, sexual dysfunction, skin aging and muscle strength need to be researched more according to the Mayo Clinic.
The body produces little DHEA from birth through about 7 years then production is increased. Your DHEA levels are at their highest in your twenties and decline after age 30. It is unclear if age is the cause of decreased production or DHEA or if we just need less as we age. Stress, caffeine and alcohol consumption can reduce levels of DHEA.
Side effects of DHEA supplementation may include; headache, insomnia, emotional changes, acne, body and facial hair growth and mood changes. Use in teens who haven't met their full growth potential can result in stunted growth. Because DHEA stimulates testosterone and estrogen production side effects in males can include feminine traits including chest/breast growth while side effects in women can include; facial hair, gruff voice and other masculine traits. It is possible to have menstrual irregularities and decreased HDL (good cholesterol) levels in women also. DHEA shouldn't be taken by pregnant women. DHEA and estrogen replacements shouldn't be taken together.
High doses of DHEA can be dangerous and have been linked to liver damage and an inability of the body to continue to produce DHEA naturally. DHEA use should be discussed with a medical professional. High doses may be linked to ovarian, endometrial and prostate cancers.