Know Your Nutrients: DHEA

BrainDHEA is short for dehydroepiandrosterone. Made by the adrenal glands located just above the kidneys, scientists have known about this hormone since 1934. Although more than 150 hormones are made by the adrenal glands, DHEA is the most abundant. After it is made, it moves into the bloodstream and travels all over the body. Once in our cells, it is converted into male hormones, known as androgens and female hormones, known as estrogens. Interestingly, in 1995, DHEA supplements became widely available to the public without a prescription.

What are the benefits? DHEA and its sulfate DHEAS are the major circulating adrenal steroids and substrates for the synthesis of peripheral sex hormone. A supplement may benefit those who have adrenal deficiency. The benefit in those who are deficient include improved sense of well-being, more alertness and stamina, and enhanced sexual interest and libido. Various studies have shown that women who have low DHEA levels usually have low sex drive; thus, some women notice the benefit of improved libido. Blood levels of all the steroid hormones that derive from DHEA metabolism are often increased when people take a DHEA supplement. This may lead to both beneficial and harmful effects. DHEA has been tested in those with HIV (improved mild depression symptoms) and lupus.

The overall benefit from a supplement must be balanced against negative effects. Have your doctor analyze your hormone levels and supplement if necessary. Be careful with taking high doses. Listen to your doctor.

Normal DHEA level for women are:
  Age 18–30: 70–400 ug/dL
  Age 31–40: 40–300 ug/dL
  Age 41–50: 30–250 ug/dL
  Age 51–60: 20–200 ug/dL
  Age 61 plus: 13–120 ug/dL

Normal DHEA level for men are:
  Age 18–30: 100–650 ug/dL
  Age 31–50: 100–550 ug/dL
  Age 51–50: 70–300 ug/dL
  Age 51–60: 20–200 ug/dL
  Age 61 plus: 30–270 ug/dL