Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, has been a source of confusion, especially in the dietary supplement industry. Supplements labeled "natural DHEA" have contributed to the misconception that DHEA -- a hormone your body produces -- is found in food. Your adrenal glands produce DHEA, which is used to produce other hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Levels of this hormone peak around age 25 and decline steadily as you get older. Doctors sometimes recommend DHEA to relieve symptoms of menopause. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your DHEA levels.
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Separating Fact From Fiction
You may have heard that Mexican wild yams contain DHEA; however, this is untrue. Wild yams contain a plant hormone called diosgenin, which chemists extract and convert to synthetic DHEA for dietary supplements. Your body is unable to convert diosgenin to DHEA, so on its own diosgenin is not a substitute for DHEA. There is no evidence that consuming Mexican wild yams will increase your DHEA levels. What's more, hormones can exert powerful effects on the body, so only take DHEA under your doctor's supervision.