DHEA is one of the hormones
made in the adrenal glands. When the adrenal glands do not make enough
hormones, including DHEA and cortisol, this is called adrenal insufficiency.
Women with this condition who were given DHEA supplements reported improved
sexuality and sense of well-being (including decreased feelings of
depression and anxiety).
Several studies suggest that
DHEA may improve well-being, quality of life, exercise capacity, sex drive,
and hormone levels in people with insufficient adrenal function (Addison's
of men have shown that DHEA replacement therapy is an important complement
to testosterone therapy. Among aging men, the amount of “free” testosterone,
or testosterone that is available to the body, falls more quickly than the
level of total testosterone. Thus, it is important to design a hormone
replacement program that raises the level of free testosterone.
A 2006 study supplemented DHEA
to men of average 65 years of age, and found that the men experienced
significant increases in testosterone and
(Cyclic guanosine monophosphate), and significant decreases in low-density
liprotein (LDL). The authors say that the findings suggest that chronic
DHEA supplementation would exert antiatherogenic effects, particularly in
elderly subjects who display low circulating levels of this hormone.
A 2005 study, measured serum
DHEA in 206 men with type-2 diabetes, and found an inverse relationship
between serum DHEA and carotid atherosclerosis in men. The authors say the
study supports the notion that DHEA, which is sold in increasing amount as
a food supplement, is atheroprotective in humans, and that androgen
replacement therapy should be considered for men with hypogonadism.
In a 1997 study, DHEA levels were shown to
parallel the levels of free testosterone in the blood. The study authors
suggested that DHEA might help raise free testosterone. If this conclusion
is correct, then DHEA replacement therapy would not only raise the blood
level of DHEA, but also the level of free testosterone.