Stress and DHEA

DHEA levels are closely linked to stress. Studies have shown that stress caused by traumatic events such as burns or illness significantly lowers DHEA, testosterone and androstenedione levels, while increasing cortisol levels. The state of calm, such as can be found in individuals practicing transcendental meditation, is associated with a high level of DHEA.

Clinical studies

  • Research carried out at the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (USA) has shown that DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S), which is known to improve memory and reduce depression in mice, appears to play a role in stress management.

  • It was found in soldiers studied during extreme military survival exercises, that those who had the highest ratio of DHEA-S to cortisol (stress hormone), were those who showed fewer symptoms of dissociation, which are known to be at greater risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder. They also performed better under pressure, in terms of survival exercises. This seems to indicate that DHEA-S acts as a buffer against the negative impacts of stress, but it is not known precisely what determines the amount of DHEA-S produced.

  • In one study, participants in a stress reduction program increased their DHEA by 100% and reduced production of the stress hormone (cortisol) by 23%.

  • Institute of Physiology, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Siberian Branch, Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk, Russia. The effects of DHEA sulphate (DHEAS, 30 mg/kg, by intraperitoneal injection, 4 and 28 hours after injection) were studied on laboratory mice which presented different levels of anxiety resulting from repeated social victories (winners ) or social defeats (losers) perpetrated during 10 daily aggressive confrontations. The losers showed a high level of anxiety estimated through a “score” test. Saline injections of DHEAS had different effects on winners, losers, and intact mice. DHEAS prevented the losers from developing anxiety 28 hours after injection. Under these experimental conditions, DHEAS had no effect on the winners. It was concluded that the effects of DHEAS depend on the psycho-emotional state of the animal. The anxiolytic effect of exogenous DHEAS may also be comparable to the endogenous hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and the central nervous system.