DHEA is a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland and to a lesser extent by the brain and skin. DHEA and DHEA-S (the sulfated form of DHEA) decline in the mid-to late 20s and by age 70 you make 25 to 30% of the hormone that you produced in your 20s. DHEA is a precursor of other sex hormones — estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Studies have shown that some of the functions of DHEA are to:
- Decrease cholesterol (many studies show decreased LDH)
- Prevent blood clots
- Decrease formation of fatty deposits (both in the brain and vascular system)
- Increase bone growth preventing osteoporosis
- Promote weight loss (many studies show fat loss without proteins loss) thereby
- Improving body mass index
DHEA inhibits the enzyme glucose- 6 – dehydrogenase which diminishes the body’s ability to store and produce fat
DHEA stimulates cholecystokinin which signals the body to feel full
IGF–1 shifts the body’s metabolism from producing fat to creating muscle and energy
- Help deal with stress
- Increase brain function
- Improved sense of well-being
- Decrease allergic phenomena
- Help your body repair itself and maintain tissue
- Support your immune system
- Is secreted during stress by the adrenal glands and as an anabolic hormone balances cortisol
Replacement of DHEA can:
- Increase muscle mass and muscle strength
- Increase quality-of-life
- Improve sleep
- Increase feeling of wellness
- Decrease triglycerides
- Stop the damaging effect of stress
- Improve adrenal burnout or failure thus reducing inflammation and
- Decreasing joint sensitivity, soreness, and autoimmune disease
- Increase sensitivity to insulin and
- Stimulate the immune system
DHEA has also been shown to be protective in cancer, diabetes, obesity, increased cholesterol, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases (especially lupus and rheumatoid arthritis). Stimulation of the immune system also improved resistance against infections and protection against such age-related diseases as cancer, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and, chronic fatigue syndrome. DHEA has been used to to treat lupus, AIDS, Epstein-Barr, herpes, memory loss, learning disabilities, and pathological depression. Whether or not DHEA is contraindicated in cancers of the breast, prostate, and uterus is debatable. Recent studies have shown the DHEA, due to its in stimulation of the immune system and mobilization of T cells, may actually be helpful in treating these diseases.
Low DHEA can be produced by menopause, decreased DHEA production (in the adrenal gland), stress, aging, smoking (nicotine inhibits the production of the enzyme 11 — beta — hydroxylase, which is required to make DHEA).
It is suggested that DHEA may be used to balance cortisol when given therapeutically.
DHEA and DHEA-S cause a significant rise in IGF-I and IGF-I binding capacity, and growth hormone.
Side Effects of DHEA excess include:
- Deepening of the voice
- Insomnia with mood changes
- Sugar cravings
- Weight gain
- Oily hair and skin
These side effects can all be managed by stopping or decreasing the dose of DHEA.
In women DHEA can produce excessive androgens. This can be avoided by using a different form of DHEA called 7-keto DHEA. This will keep DHEA from entering any androgen metabolic pathway. Oddly enough, DHEA does not appear to increase androgens in males.