Dehydroepiandrosterone -- DHEA -- is a hormone that your adrenal glands produce and secrete into your bloodstream. DHEA is an important hormone that's converted into other hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Compounded DHEA supplements may help to promote weight loss, but you should consult your physician before taking DHEA to discuss the correct dosage and potential health dangers.
DHEA converts into androstenedione, and then into testosterone or estrogen in the body, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. DHEA levels appear to reach their highest concentrations when you're about 20 years old, and then slowly drop as you get older. DHEA may stimulate insulin growth factors, reduce cardiovascular disease risks, improve mental function and decrease oxidative stress.
As a precursor for other hormones, DHEA appears to influence your overall well-being and your sexual function, particularly in women, according to the University of Michigan Health System. People who have adrenal insufficiency, depression, multi-infarct dementia, Alzheimer's disease, HIV, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, asthma and erectile dysfunction all tend to have below-normal DHEA levels. People with systemic lupus erythematosus, burns and diabetes may also have low DHEA concentrations, notes the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Compounded DHEA supplementation may help to promote weight loss and treat obesity, as well as help in treating lupus, adrenal insufficiency, osteoporosis, depression, erectile dysfunction, low sex drive in women, age-related physical and mental declines, HIV, inflammatory bowel disease, and menopausal symptoms, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. You could take DHEA specifically to reduce your total body fat and LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels. Also, DHEA could help to treat cancer, Addison's disease, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, schizophrenia and memory loss, notes the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. People with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, a suppressed immune system, chronic fatigue syndrome and multi-infarct dementia might benefit from taking DHEA supplements as well, according to the University of Michigan Health System. No conclusive scientific research supports the use of DHEA supplements to prevent or treat any medical condition, however.
DHEA is available in a synthetic form in supplements, which are typically used in daily dosages of 5 mg to 15 mg for women and 10 mg to 30 mg for men, says the University of Michigan Health System. DHEA supplements come in the form of capsules, tablets, chewing gum, drops and topical creams, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Other typical recommended dosages of DHEA include 50 mg per day for men and 25 mg or 50 mg for women. Don't take any dosage of DHEA without first consulting your doctor.
Beware of supplements labeled as "natural DHEA" made from wild yams, because the substance in these supplements -- diosgenin -- doesn't actually convert into DHEA in your body, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. Instead, you should look for a supplement that contains synthetic DHEA and not wild yam or diosgenin. Taking more than 50 mg per day of DHEA can cause side effects such as acne, excessive facial hair, sweating, weight gain, breast tenderness, moodiness, headaches and irregular menstrual cycles, cautions the University of Michigan Health System. DHEA supplementation could increase testosterone levels and breast cancer risks in women, as well as risks of prostate cancer in men. DHEA supplements may also interact negatively with medications such as tamoxifen, hormone replacement therapy and diabetes drugs, says the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. DHEA can interfere with corticosteroids, barbiturates and the HIV medication AZT, as well.