An important hormone in both males and females, testosterone affects body composition and sexual performance. Peaking during adolescence or early adulthood, testosterone levels begin to drop in men after the age of 30. Do your homework before attempting to raise testosterone with DHEA or any other supplement.
Primarily produced by the adrenal glands, DHEA is a hormonal precursor for both estrogen and testosterone. It is the most common steroid hormone in the body. Production of DHEA generally peaks during the mid-20s, at which time it is the body's most abundant hormone, before steadily declining with age. According to the website Quackwatch.org, the DHEA level of the average 75-year-old man will only be 20 percent of his peak levels.
Nutritional supplement companies market DHEA products as a method of increasing testosterone to increase strength and improve body composition. Websites like "Life Extension" promote DHEA replacement therapy as an anti-aging method and as a possible treatment for a number of conditions ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer's disease.
There have been a number of studies performed on DHEA supplementation and its effect on testosterone. The majority of research shows no correlation between DHEA supplementation and increased testosterone in men. A 1999 study of the effects of oral DHEA supplementation on serum testosterone levels in young men carried out by the Department of Health and Human Performance, Iowa State University found that serum testosterone concentrations were unaffected by ingestion of DHEA. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, DHEA replacement studies in older men and women have only produced testosterone increases in females; the levels in men have remained unchanged.
DHEA supplements are readily available at both online and traditional sports nutrition stores. It can be found as a stand-alone supplement or can be found as an ingredient in supplement formulations marketed to increase testosterone, and at least one supplement retailer now offers a multivitamin pack that contains DHEA as part of the formula.
There have not been enough long-term studies to determine the safety of DHEA supplementation. Medline Plus, The U.S. National Library of Medicine website, lists DHEA as possibly safe for most people when used for only a few months and possibly unsafe when used long-term with doses higher than 50 to 100 mg per day. Side effects for men include acne, hair loss, upset stomach and high blood pressure. The International Olympic Committee and the NCAA prohibit the use of DHEA.