DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone, is a popular hormonal supplement used by bodybuilders and strength trainers to build muscle and cut fat. DHEA is also said to assist in regulating proper blood sugar levels. In the body, DHEA is two steps away from being converted into testosterone.
A recent study revealed that DHEA decreased HDL-C and triglycerides in women. Further studies have shown that DHEA has little to no impact on fighting Alzheimer’s disease, nor did it improve the quality of life or alter body composition in elderly men and women. So despite the benefits that come from supplementation, it is not a miracle supplement as some would claim.
In a study of younger men, a 7 day supplementation with DHEA improved memory. This study also revealed that DHEA improved mood, and decreased evening cortisol concentration.
A 1999 study by Wallace, Lim, Cutler and Bucci, entitled “Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone vs androstenedione supplementation in men”, DHEA supplementation did not out perform a placebo group with respect to muscle mass gains, improved strength, or heightened testosterone levels.
In the body, DHEA is converted to androstenedione, and then subsequently testosterone. This provides twice the opportunity for DHEA to aromatize into estrogen in men. Because of this, men who supplement with DHEA run the risk of raising their estrogen levels. DHEA can also be converted into cortisol or progesterone.
The World Anti-Doping Agency lists DHEA as a controlled substance, and in countries like Canada, a prescription is required to obtain DHEA.
Possible side effects of DHEA include acne, hair loss, menstrual irregularities in women, and prostate enlargement.
Other positive side effects include an increase in sex drive, and a bolstered metabolism.