DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. Similar with the lifecycle production of testosterone, DHEA levels reach highest levels in women in their twenties and then slowly decline by about 10% every 10 years. Some studies have suggested the decline in DHEA production is connected with some age elated degenerative diseases both in women and men, like heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Some diseases like Addison’s disease (primary adrenal failure) cause abrupt and significant decrease in DHEA levels in addition to the decrease in other steroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands. DHEA supplementation in these patients showed improved mood, self-esteem and decrease in fatigue.
Another, less severe but more frequent condition causing a decrease in DHEA is adrenal insufficiency, where hormones are still secreted by the adrenal glands but at a lower than normal levels. DHEA supplementation showed similar benefits.
Can DHEA provide and anti-aging benefit? Judging by the fact that the levels are high in early life and steadily decline after that, some researchers looked at how DHEA supplementation affects the general health of men and women. University of California School of Medicine run a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 17 women and 13 men, aged 40-70 years, over a six-month period. After three months on DHEA, 82% of the women and 67% of the men reported an increased sense of wellbeing, including enhanced quality of sleep, lower anxiety, higher energy, and increased ability to handle stress.
Studies also showed that DHEA replacement in peri and postmenopausal women of 50-100 mg per day resulted in an increase in testosterone levels as well as Growth Hormone levels.
And sexual function? Yes, DHEA was shown to increase desire, arousal, lubrication and overall sexual satisfaction on postmenopausal women but also at younger ages, starting at 35 years old.
DHEA can also reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
A note on Keto–DHEA: also known as 7-Keto, it is a metabolite of DHEA. However, Keto–DHEA does metabolize into estrogen or testosterone. So, which one do you choose? It depends on what you want to achieve. If you desire an increase in testosterone and benefits associated with it, then DHEA is the answer. If the possible side-effects associated with DHEA are an issue (acne, elevated blood pressure, upset stomach, liver disfunction), then keto–DHEA is your choice, especially if you are looking at weight loss. Studies have shown that Keto DHEA increases the levels of the thyroid hormone T3, improve lean body mass, build muscle, speed up metabolism and heat production, activate three thermogenic enzymes in the mitochondria, reverse the decrease in the Resting Metabolic Rate caused by dieting. Also, it can boost the immune system, help with memory, anxiety, depression, PTSD and slow down aging effects in the body. It could also help with alcohol cravings due to activity on GABA receptors.
Regardless of which one you decide to use, it is very important to regularly check your levels of DHEA as well following on other labs as recommended by your physician.