DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands in the human body. This hormone was discovered in 1930s. DHEA is also available in the market in the supplemental form. Chemically it is prepared from wild yam and soy. However, our body cannot prepare DHEA synthetically from these foods containing these chemicals. DHEA level is high in young individuals and it starts declining as a person grows older.  DHEA is changed in the body to another hormones called as androstenedione. It is then changed into male and female hormones. Thus, DHEA acts a precursor to the sex hormones produced in male and females.

DHEA Therapeutic Use
DHEA is found to be useful in certain medical problems. Some medical conditions where DHEA is found useful are given under:

DHEA supplements help to improve bone density.  A 2002 study from the Chinese Medical Journal revealed that DHEA is safe and effective in the treatment of osteoporosis. After six months of treatment with DHEA, 44 male osteoporosis patients experienced a significant increase in bone mineral density (compared to 42 male osteoporosis patients assigned to a control group for the same time period).

Studies show that DHEA help to increase mental function and enhance bone mass in people suffering from systemic lupus erthematosus (SLE). It is an autoimmune disease that affects connective tissues. For a 2007 report in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, scientists analyzed seven clinical trials (with a total of 842 participants) that tested the use of DHEA in treating SLE. The report's authors concluded that DHEA may have a "modest but clinically significant impact" on health-related quality of life in the short-term for people with SLE.

According to a study from the Archives of General Psychiatry increased intake of DHEA help in reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms in patients with schizophrenia. DHEA also help in improving mood and boost up the energy in patients with schizophrenia.

Erectile dysfunction
DHEA is found to be an effective hormone for improving erectile dysfunction in men. Research has shown that men suffering from erectile dysfunction have lower levels of DHEA. In a 2000 study from Urology, for example, researchers examined 442 men (including 309 patients with erectile dysfunction and 133 healthy volunteers) and found that DHEA levels were lower in men with erectile dysfunction until age 60. In a 1999 study, 40 men suffering from erectile dysfunction received a daily dose of DHEA for six months. These men experienced significant improvement in their erectile dysfunction problem. It was also found that other 20 participants who received a placebo for the same time period had no improvement in their erectile dysfunction.

As discussed earlier that levels of DHEA falls with advancing age, so some researchers are using DHEA supplements to prevent the signs of ageing.

DHEA is also known to fight against the depression. In a small, six-week study, researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health found that treatment with DHEA supplements helped relieve mild to moderate depression that occurs in some middle-aged people.

DHEA is also used for boosting up the immune system and provides strength to deal with the stress of daily activities. As levels of DHEA decreases with increasing age, it leads to mood changes due to lack of energy and decreased body strength.

People suffering from different medical problems require different dosage of DHEA to prevent complications. Excess amount of DHEA may lead to side effects. Recommended dosage for some medical conditions is given as under:
- For systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): 200 mg per day along with conventional medical treatment
- For osteoporosis: 50-100 mg per day
- For erectile dysfunction: 50 mg per day
- For schizophrenia: 25 mg daily for 2 weeks, 25 mg two times daily for 2 weeks, and 50 mg two times daily for 2 weeks.

Special precautions
DHEA is not recommended during pregnancy and breast feeding. It increases a male hormone called androgen, which is not good for baby’s health.
DHEA is not safe in women suffering from ovarian, breast or uterine cancer. It affects the working of estrogen and use of DHEA may produce complications.
Diabetic people should also take DHEA under the supervision of their physician as it may affect the use of insulin in their body.
People with mood disorders should also use DHEA under the supervision of their health practitioner as it may cause irritability and excitability.
DHEA may interact with the following drugs:
Anastrazole and Exemestane: Used to lower estrogen levels in the body
Fulvestrant and Letrozole: Fulvestrant is used for cancers associated with estrogen imbalance.
Insulin: DHEA may interfere with the working of insulin in the body. Therefore, diabetic people who are on insulin injections should avoid taking DHEA supplements. 

Always consult your health care provider before starting a supplement therapy