- A hormone made by the adrenal glands
- A small amount is also made in the brain and skin
- DHEA production declines with age starting in the late twenties
- By the age of 70 the body may only make of the amount of DHEA it made earlier
- DHEA makes estrogen and testosterone in both women and men
- DHEA levels may also change when the patient has stress at any age
Functions of DHEA
- Decreases cholesterol
- Decreases formation of fatty deposits
- Prevents blood clots
- Increases bone growth
- Promotes weight loss
- Increases brain function
- Increases lean body mass
- Increases sense of well-being
- Helps one deal with stress
- Supports the immune system
- Helps the body repair itself and maintain tissues
- Decreases allergic reactions
- Lowers triglycerides
- Increases insulin sensitivity
Study Reviewed Functions of DHEA
- In the elderly, DHEA exerts an immunomodulatory action, increasing the number of monocytes, T cells expressing Tcell receptor gamma/delta (TCRγδ) and natural killer (NK) cells.
- It improves physical and psychological wellbeing, muscle strength and bone density, and reduces body fat and age-related skin atrophy stimulating procollagen/sebum production.
- In adrenal insufficiency, DHEA restores DHEA/DHEAS and androstenedione levels, reduces total cholesterol, improves wellbeing, sexual satisfaction and insulin sensitivity, and prevents loss of bone mineral density.
- In an unblinded study, it induced remission in the majority of patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
- DHEA modulates cardiovascular signaling pathways and exerts an anti-inflammatory, vasorelaxant and anti-remodeling effect. Its low levels correlate with increased cardiovascular disease and all-cause
- DHEA/DHEAS appear protective in asthma and allergy. It attenuates T helper 2 allergic inflammation and reduces eosinophilia and airway hyperreactivity.
- In women, DHEA improves sexual satisfaction, fertility and age-related vaginal atrophy.
Reference: Rutkowski, K., et al., Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): hypes and hopes,” Drugs 2014;74(11):1195-207.
Etiologies of Low DHEA
- Decreased production
- Smoking (nicotine inhibits the production of 11-beta-hydroxylase which is needed to make DHEA)
Replacement of DHEA
- Increases muscle strength and lean body mass
- Activates immune function
- Increases quality of life
- Improves sleep
- Increases feeling of wellness
- Decreases joint soreness
- Increases sensitivity of insulin
- Decreases triglycerides
- Stops the damaging effects of stress
- Elevates growth hormone levels
- Positive effect on memory
Junqueira de Menezes, K., et al.,“Dehydroepiandrosterone, its sulfate and cognitive functions,” Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health 2016; 12:24-37.
Kinge, C., et al., “Dehydroepiandrosterone research: past, current, and future,” Vitam Horm 2018; 108:1-28.
Clark, B., et al., “Mechanisms of action of dehydroepiandrosterone,” Vitam Horm 2018; 108:29-72.
DHEA and the Brain
DHEA in conjunction with other hormones and transmitters significantly affects some aspects of human mood and has also been shown to modify some features of human emotions and behavior.
It has been reported that its administration can increase feelings of well-being and is useful in ameliorating atypical depressive disorders.
It has neuroprotective and anti-glucocorticoid activity and modifies immune reactions. It may also have a role in degenerative brain diseases. and some authors have also reported its role in degenerative brain diseases.
Starka, L., et al., “Dehydroepiandrosterone: a neuroactive steroid,” Jour Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2015; 145:254-60.
DHEA and PTSD
This study suggests that DHEA has a role in modulating recovery from PTSD.
Yehuda, R., et al., “Clinical correlates of DHEA associated with post-traumatic stress disorder,”
Acta Psychiatr Scand 2006; 114(3):187-93.
Statin Use and DHEA
- A recent study showed that patients that use statin drugs have lower SHBG levels and lower DHEA levels than controls.
Reference: Oluleye, O., et al., “Association between statin use and sex hormones in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Artherosclerosis (MESA) cohort,” Jour Clin Endo Metabol June 2019, doi:10.1210/jc.2019-00530.
Symptoms of DHEA Excess
- Deepening of voice
- Mood changes
- Weight gain
- Facial hair
- Sugar cravings
- Restless sleep