DHEA is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands that has many beneficial effects. DHEA declines with age and has been shown to be a biomarker to measure the aging process. One study, published by the NIH in 2002, revealed two primary factors that prolong lifespan are elevated levels of DHEA and caloric restriction.
DHEA serves as the building block for the body to produce estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Adequate levels of DHEA make it easier to maintain optional levels of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, thus experiencing the beneficial effects of these hormones.
Adequate levels of DHEA increase energy, and reduce body fat and cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. DHEA also has a positive impact on insulin sensitivity, which provides protection from diabetes, and greater glucose control for diabetics. In addition, high levels of DHEA have been successful in treating depression, obesity, and osteoporosis.
An individual typically produces half as much DHEA at 40 years old as she did at 20 years old. Some elderly people produce absolutely no DHEA. Adequate levels of DHEA have been shown to improve quality of life and postpone many of the unpleasant effects associated with the aging process. Patients maintaining optimal levels of DHEA have more energy, sleep better, and are more equipped to handle life-stresses.
While DHEA has many beneficial effects, it is very important that patients who are receiving DHEA supplements are followed by a health care provider. Too much DHEA can result in oily skin, acne, and abnormal hair growth. These effects are dose dependent, meaning that once the DHEA dose is decreased, the side effects will resolve. When using a DHEA supplement, lab values must be assessed and symptoms monitored until optimal levels of DHEA are achieved and maintained.
DHEA is taken in an oral form. It is sold over the counter. But due to the short half-life of the over the counter product, it must be taken three times a day. The most effective form of DHEA is a compounded sustained-release product that is available through prescription and taken only once in the morning.