DHEA is a hormone that's used medically and is also available as a supplement. DHEA 25 mg refers to a specific dose of DHEA that’s within an acceptable range. It has the potential to cause side effects, may interact with some medications and is not recommended if you have a history of certain diseases, so talk to your physician before taking DHEA.
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DHEA is an acronym for the chemical dehydroepiandrosterone. It is a steroid hormone naturally produced in -- and secreted by -- the adrenal glands near the kidney. It's also secreted by the testes in men. DHEA is metabolized to become the male and female hormones testosterone and estrogen, according to MedlinePlus.
DHEA is used to treat adrenal insufficiency, systemic lupus erythematosus and to induce labor, according to MayoClinic.com. Studies suggest that it may increase hormone levels, stimulate the sex drive and improve overall quality of life. It may also be effective for depression and weight loss. While research remains inconclusive, DHEA is being studied for its effectiveness in a wide range of diseases including Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, cervical cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn's disease, HIV/AIDS, menopausal disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and schizophrenia.
The "Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" published a study in December 2008 suggesting that DHEA produced an anti-aging effect in the skin of postmenopausal women. A study published by M. El-Alfy, C. Deloche, et al. in the August 2010 issue of the "British Journal of Dermatology" offered further support. They concluded that DHEA applied to the skin has the potential to be an efficient anti-aging agent.
Evidence as of October 2010 is conflicting about whether DHEA successfully builds muscle strength or improves memory. Levels of DHEA, however, naturally decrease as we age, notes MayoClinic.com, so researchers hypothesize that supplements may reduce the effects of aging.
MedlinePlus notes that the dosage of DHEA varies from 25 to 200 mg, with 25 to 50 mg a day being the most commonly used. Doses higher than 50 to 100 mg should not be taken unless you’re under a doctor’s care.
The most common side effects are fatigue, nasal congestion, headache, acne and irregular heartbeats. Some women experience insomnia, emotional changes and abnormal menses. Women may also see hair growth on the face and men may experience breast growth. DHEA may increase cholesterol and insulin resistance.
You should not take DHEA if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, or if you have a history of abnormal heart rhythms, blood clots or liver disease, warns MayoClinic.com. Consult a health professional before taking DHEA if you have a history of hormone-related cancers, such as breast or prostate cancer. It may cause mania or irritability in patients with depression or bipolar disorder, and may worsen some conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and cholesterol problems.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate supplements, so you can never be sure about the strength, purity or safety of supplemental DHEA. Talk to your physician before taking DHEA, especially if you have a medical condition or take medications.