DHEA is a supplement that is thought to have anti aging effects. But what exactly is DHEA and does it contain any risks?
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone that is naturally made in the body. It is the precursor hormone that is responsible for the production and regulation of every other steroid and sex hormone in the body. DHEA is the only hormone that lessens with age. It is produced from cholesterol by the adrenal glands, and is also made in the sexual organs, fatty tissues, and in the brain.
DHEA deficiencies in older people have been associated with conditions such as breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and impaired memory and mental function.
DHEA as a supplement is thought to protect against disease, increase sexual libido, and increasing the user’s feeling of wellbeing. It is also seen as being a powerful anti-aging supplement. The use of DHEA as a supplement may have the following effects:
• maintaining sex hormone levels
• increasing the production of antioxidant enzymes in the liver
• blocking an enzyme called g6pd which is necessary for the production of fatty tissue and also promotes the growth of cancer cells
• relieving stress
• strengthening the immune system
• improving mental clarity as people age
• helping the body to burn calories for energy
• increasing muscle mass and strength
DHEA may be helpful for people with SLE (systemic lupus erythmatosus) as it can reduce fatigue, improve thinking abilities, and generally improve quality of life.
No studies have been undertaken on the long term safety of DHEA. As DHEA is a precursor for both estrogen and testosterone, it should not be taken by people that suffer from cancers that are affected by hormones, such as breast, and prostate cancer.
High doses of DHEA can affect the body’s natural ability to make the hormone and can also be toxic to liver cells. As it increases the production of testosterone, women should be aware of signs of masculinisation, such as hair loss, a deepening voice, and weight gain around the waist. Men should also be aware of the risks of excess testosterone, such as male pattern baldness and shrinkage of the testicles. Other adverse effects can include high blood pressure and reduced levels of good cholesterol.
DHEA supplements are not recommended for people under the age of 40, unless levels of DHEA are known to be low. They should not be used in children.