Dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) is a weak androgen produced in the adrenal glands that is a precursor for testosterone. It is converted in the body into androstenedione, which is then converted into testosterone. DHEA levels are highest when we are in our 20’s, then decline significantly as we age.
DHEA has been used to treat depression, adrenal sufficiency, obesity, vaginal atrophy, and erectile dysfunction, but it is most commonly used to reverse the aging process and build muscle. It is especially effective in men with flagging testosterone levels who do not wish to take testosterone directly.
Men can benefit from taking 25 to 50 milligrams or more per day. If men decide to supplement with higher doses, guidance from their primary care physicians is advised beforehand. If DHEA dosing is too high, men can develop breast tissue and high blood pressure.
Women have a much trickier time with DHEA, and many can only tolerate 5 to 10 milligrams without experiencing side effects. Side effects in women include abnormal periods, oily skin, facial hair, and mood changes.
Usually side effects are mild, such as fatigue and headache. Another relatively common side effect is insomnia, so it is a good idea to take DHEA in the morning. Do not take DHEA if you have heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid problems, polycystic ovary syndrome, or blood clotting disorders.