DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a natural steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands of both men and women. It plays several roles in the body including:
1. Stimulating production of growth hormones and other hormones that promote muscle mass and metabolism.
2. Promoting healthy hair growth 3.
Improving mood 4. Increasing libido 5. Preventing osteoporosis 6. Reducing symptoms associated with menopause 7. Protecting against heart disease and certain cancers 8.
Providing protection from prostate cancer 9. Promoting normal sexual function 10. Helping prevent depression 11. Improving memory 12. Improving concentration 13. Improving cognitive abilities 14. Relieving anxiety 15. Controlling weight 16. Decreasing risk of osteoporosis 17. Preventing cardiovascular diseases 18. Preventing some types of cancer 19. Improving skin health 20. Improving mood 21. Helps prevent depression 22. Helps reduce the risk of developing diabetes 23. Helps prevent osteoporosis 24. Helps maintain bone density 25. Increases libido 26. Increases energy 27. Decreases risk of erectile dysfunction 28. Prevents heart disease 29. Promotes hair growth 30. Supports sexual health
DHEA and IGF-1 have a positive correlation. When IGF-1 levels are high DHEA is low, when IGF-1 levels are low DHEA is high. DHEA helps prevent muscle wasting that results from untreated AIDS. It also has healing qualities for the lungs and helps protect the liver from alcohol toxicity. Some studies have shown that it can help to prevent some types of cancer.
DHEA is a precursor to several other hormones in the body. It can be thought of as a building block for various hormones. DHEA can also be converted into androgens and estrogens such as testosterone and estrogen. This is one reason DHEA supplementation can promote hair growth, increase libido, enhance mood, protect against osteoporosis, and protect against certain types of cancer.
DHEA can also be broken down to produce a substance called 7-keto DHEA which has some interesting effects on the body. 7-Keto can be used as a sleep aid in some cases and is able to increase the amount of cortisol in the body, when taken at a high dosage. This may have some beneficial effect for people who need extra cortisol such as those with Addison’s disease.
Too much cortisol can lead to a host of medical problems and is one of the reasons elevated cortisol levels are linked to obesity. 7-keto DHEA may also play a role in reducing the risk of developing colon cancer. This is one of the reasons why DHEA is being studied for its anticancer properties. Before considering the use of 7-keto DHEA individuals should consult their physician.
One of the reasons DHEA may increase libido is due to its conversion into androgens. In particular, 7-keto DHEA can be converted into testosterone and then dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Both of these hormones play an important role in masculine features (secondary sexual characteristics) during puberty such as voice change, facial hair growth, increased size of genitals, and increased sexual desire.
Finally, like many hormones, it can affect mood. DHEA can bind to the same receptors in the brain that testosterone and other androgens bind too. This is one reason why it can increase mood, increase energy, and improve libido. It may also provide antidepressant effects.
How it Works
DHEA is a prohormone. This means it is a precursor, or a building block, that your body needs in order to produce hormones. DHEA supplementation does not increase the amount of DHEA that your body produces. Instead, it provides your body with more of what it needs to create certain hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating a number of important processes in your body.
DHEA is a precursor to several hormones. It works primarily as a precursor to androgens and estrogens such as testosterone and estrogen, but also plays a role in the production of corticosteroids, which are stress hormones. The process is a bit complex, so it will be explained in detail below.
DHEA supplements are often produced from wild yams (dioscorea), which naturally contain small amounts of DHEA. DHEA is extracted from the wild yams and later converted into bioidentical DHEA. Some supplement manufacturers produce DHEA from soybeans, which are rich in the precursor sterols needed to produce DHEA.
DHEA is the central precursor to all hormones. It is first synthesized into androstenedione, which is then converted to testosterone and estrone. Androstenedione can also be converted to estrone and then to estradiol. DHEA can also be broken down into 7-keto DHEA which has its own range of effects as will be explained in a bit.
DHEA first converts into androstenedione via an enzymatic process. The next step is where things get a bit more complex, in terms of hormone synthesis that is. Androstenedione can be converted into either testosterone or estrone (and their estrogenic equivalents) via a series of transformations carried out by the enzymes aromatase and 5-alpha reductase.
Sources & references used in this article:
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation for cognitive function. by SA Cherniske – 1998 – Random House Digital, Inc.
DHEA: hype, hope not matched by facts by FAH Huppert, J Van Niekerk – Cochrane Database of …, 2001 – cochranelibrary.com
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation for cognitive function in healthy elderly people by L Schnirring – The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 1998 – Taylor & Francis
DHEA supplementation and cognition in postmenopausal women by JG Evans, R Malouf, FAH Huppert… – … of systematic reviews, 2006 – cochranelibrary.com