“DHEA production decreases as people grow older, but the significance of this change, including whether it affects aging and menopause symptoms, is unclear”.1

Umbrella
What may the DHEA Umbrella include?

Depending on the Source (DotS) this Umbrella may include:

  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
  • Prasterone

Definition

What is dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)?

DotS the definition of DHEA may vary. The (United States) National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health’s (NCCIH) definition is:

  • “Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a substance that’s naturally made in the body, where it’s converted into the hormones testosterone and estrogen”.2

Dietary Supplement

Is DHEA available as a dietary supplement?

DotC (Depending on the Country) DHEA may be available as a dietary supplement. In Healthy Aging: In-Depth – DHEA: Evidence for Anti-Aging Claims Is Weak – What Is DHEA? the (United States) Mayo Clinic explain:

“A synthetic version of DHEA is available in pill form. It’s sold as a dietary supplement in the United States. Studies have shown quality control of this supplement to often be low”.3

Aging

Is there an association between aging and DHEA?

In Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – DHEA the NCCIH elaborate on:

“DHEA production decreases as people grow older, but the significance of this change, including whether it affects aging and menopause symptoms, is unclear”.4

In DHEA: Evidence the Mayo Clinic also note:

  • “Aging. In theory, taking DHEA supplements to maintain DHEA levels could slow the aging process, possibly improving well-being, cognitive function and body composition. But research hasn’t proved this to be true”.5

Menopause

Is there an association between menopause and DHEA?

In Hormone Therapy Help Desk: ET, EPT, and More – Androgens the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) explain:

“Often called “male hormones,” androgens are also produced in the female body as testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), among others, but in much lower quantities than in men. Insufficient androgen levels at any age are thought to contribute to fatigue, mood changes, and lowered sex drive. There is no dramatic change in androgen levels at menopause; androgen production seems to be affected more by aging, although women who have their ovaries removed (surgical menopause) sometimes experience a sharper drop in their levels of testosterone. Interestingly, testosterone has been found to increase again in older women”.6

Menopause Symptoms

How effective is DHEA for the treatment of menopause symptoms?

The NCCIH note:

DHEA

  • “It’s uncertain whether DHEA is useful in treating menopause symptoms”.7

The Mayo Clinic also note:

“Limited research suggests that DHEA might improve vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women and that the supplement might improve bone mineral density in elderly people with low DHEA. But improvements in bone density were small compared with those seen after treatment with approved osteoporosis medications. Research on the effects of DHEA on well-being and body composition has had mixed results, and most studies indicate no effect of DHEA on cognitive function or on muscle size or strength”.8

Vaginal Atrophy

How effective is DHEA for the treatment of vaginal atrophy?

On page two in Vaginal Dryness: Treatment Options – Other Prescription Therapies the NAMS explain:

  • “Dehydroepiandrasterone (DHEA) is a hormone-containing insert placed into the vagina nightly for the treatment of painful intercourse caused by vaginal atrophy. Although DHEA can be converted in the body to other hormones, including estrogen, blood levels of hormones do not appear to increase with vaginal use of low-dose DHEA”.9

In DHEA: How Effective Is It? the (United States) MedlinePlus note the effectiveness rating is:

“Likely Effective for…

  • Thinning of vaginal tissue (vaginal atrophy). The walls of the vagina can become thinner after menopause. This can cause pain during sex. Using vaginal inserts containing DHEA can reduce pain during sex by up to 15% in women after menopause. A prescription DHEA product is available for this condition”.10

Changes

In women, what changes may result from choosing to use DHEA?

In Anti-Aging Hormones: What Are the Risks of Taking DHEA Without A Doctor’s Advice? the (United States) Hormone Health Network (HHN) note:

“In women, DHEA can cause change related to an increase in testosterone: irregular menstrual periods, increased facial hair, increased sweating, smaller breasts, and a deeper voice”.11

Safe or Not

Are DHEA supplements safe?

According to the NCCIH:

  • “The long-term safety of taking DHEA supplements is unknown. Some evidence suggests that even short-term use of these supplements may have harmful effects, including liver damage”.12

In DHEA: Safety and Side Effects the Mayo Clinic explain the safety and side effects of DHEA and elaborate on possible drug interactions.

DHEA

Health Care Provider

What if I choose to use DHEA supplements?

If you choose to use DHEA supplements it may be in your best interest to also choose to talk to your health care provider about this. The HHN explain:

“Some side effects disappear when DHEA is stopped, but it is not yet clear if other side effects might be permanent. The FDA does not monitor the quality of DHEA supplements, so they may vary widely in terms of how much actual DHEA is in them. As with human growth hormone, DHEA supplements can be dangerous or ineffective”.13

Health Topics A-Z

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In Health Topics A-Z you may find:

Links

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Sources

Where may I find the Sources quoted?

You may find the Sources quoted at:

Sources

  1. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – DHEA. Last Updated: May 2017. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/menopausal-symptoms-in-depth Accessed: 16 June 2020
  2. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – DHEA. Last Updated: May 2017. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/menopausal-symptoms-in-depth Accessed: 16 June 2020
  3. Healthy Aging: In-Depth – DHEA: Evidence for Anti-Aging Claims Is Weak – What Is DHEA? 05 October 2017. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/dhea/art-20045605 Accessed: 16 June 2020
  4. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – DHEA. Last Updated: May 2017. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/menopausal-symptoms-in-depth Accessed: 16 June 2020
  5. DHEA: Evidence. 14 December 2017. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-dhea/art-20364199 Accessed: 16 June 2020
  6. Hormone Therapy Help Desk: ET, EPT, and More – Androgens. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/hormone-help-desk-et-ept-and-more Accessed: 16 June 2020
  7. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – DHEA. Last Updated: May 2017. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/menopausal-symptoms-in-depth Accessed: 16 June 2020
  8. Healthy Aging: In-Depth – DHEA: Evidence for Anti-Aging Claims Is Weak – What Does DHEA Have To Do With Aging? 05 October 2017. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/art-20045605 Accessed: 16 June 2020
  9. Vaginal Dryness: Treatment Options – Other Prescription Therapies. 2018:2. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/for-women/mn-vaginal-dryness.pdf Accessed: 16 June 2020
  10. DHEA: How Effective Is It? Last Reviewed: 13 January 2020. Page Last Updated: 04 June 2020. MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/331.html Accessed: 16 June 2020
  11. Anti-Aging Hormones: What Are the Risks of Taking DHEA Without A Doctor’s Advice? Last Updated: December 2018. Hormone Health Network https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/steroid-and-hormone-abuse/anti-aging-hormones Accessed: 16 June 2020
  12. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – DHEA. Last Updated: May 2017. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/menopausal-symptoms-in-depth Accessed: 16 June 2020
  13. Anti-Aging Hormones: What Are the Risks of Taking DHEA Without A Doctor’s Advice? Last Updated: December 2018. Hormone Health Network https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/steroid-and-hormone-abuse/anti-aging-hormones Accessed: 16 June 2020
Topic Last Updated: 16 June 2020 – Topic Last Reviewed: 16 June 2020
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