Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA is made from cholesterol by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of each kidney.
Production of this substance peaks in the mid-20s, and gradually declines with age in most people. [1] Deficiency of
DHEA is associated with lupus erythematosus, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer's disease and some cancers. DHEA
supplements have shown some benefits in clinical and animal studies. [2] Supplements of DHEA can be bought without a
prescription and are sold as "anti-aging remedies." Some proponents of these products claim that DHEA supplements
improve energy, strength, and immunity. DHEA is also said to increase muscle and decrease fat. [1]

An article from
Mayo Clinic claims that there is sufficient evidence supporting DHEA benefits on adrenal insufficiency,
depression, induction of labor and systemic lupus erythematosus, while
NIH states DHEA may further benefit
schizophrenia, improving the appearance of older people's skin (anti-aging?), improving ability to achieve an
erection,and conditions like osteoporosis.

DHEA side effects can be serious. Although the long-term (over 1 year) effects of DHEA supplements have not been
studied, there are early signs that these supplements, even when taken briefly, may have several detrimental effects on
the body including liver damage. [1] Further, DHEA is a hormone related to male and female hormones, there may be
side effects related to the functions of these hormones. DHEA supplements may cause high levels of estrogen or
testosterone in certain users. This is important because testosterone plays a role in prostate cancer, and higher levels of
estrogen are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. It is not unclear if estrogen supplements, testosterone
supplements, DHEA supplements will also promote the development of these cancers. But it is known that high
testosterone levels can cause acne and growth of facial hair in women. [1]

According to
Mayo Clinic, other side effects may include fatigue, nasal congestion, headache, acne, or rapid/irregular
heartbeats. Further, DHEA side effects in women may also include side effects are abnormal menses, emotional
changes, headache, and insomnia.  

[1] National Institute on Aging, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health January
2005 [2] Olech E et al, DHEA supplementation: the claims in perspective. Cleve Clin J Med 2005 Nov;72(11):956-6, 968, 970-1   

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