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what does dhea stand for

What Does DHEA Stand For?

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2022)

What does DHEA stand for? You may have this question, particularly as it’s become popular as a supplement. Below we answer “what does DHEA stand for” and provide you with more information about it.

An Overview of DHEA

DHEA stands for dehydroepiandrosterone. This hormone is something your adrenal glands naturally produce, and DHEA plays a role in the production of other hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. Our natural levels of DHEA will usually peak in early adulthood, and as we age, they will typically begin to fall gradually.

You can buy a synthetic version of DHEA as a tablet, topical cream, powder, gel, and capsule.

DHEA is a steroid hormone that performs a number of critical roles in the body, and it’s also being studied for its therapeutic effects on various conditions. DHEA is sometimes called the super hormone and fountain of youth hormone.

What Does DHEA Stand For—Fast Facts

  • DHEA stands for dehydroepiandrosterone
  • The steroid hormone helps synthesize estrogen and androgen
  • The body naturally makes it in the adrenal glands, as well as in the brain and gonads
  • DHEA is becoming an increasingly popular supplement
  • Low levels of DHEA can occur in people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and kidney disease
  • Some say that DHEA as a supplement can slow aging, improve the immune system, promote weight loss and enhance sex drive

The Benefits of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

DHEA is widely being looked at for therapeutic benefits for a number of conditions. This so-called super hormone is available in supplements and is an endogenous steroid hormone. An endogenous steroid hormone is one made by the body. DHEA is one of our body’s most abundant steroid hormones, produced by the brain, gonads, and adrenal glands. The steroid hormone is normally found as dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate or DHEAS. Your body will hold DHEAS in reserve, converting them to particular hormones as needed.

DHEA plays a crucial role in creating estrogen and androgen sex hormones.

Our DHEA production peaks in our 20s and 30s and then begins to decline. That’s one reason that DHEA is considered necessary in the aging process and is being looked at as a potential target for anti-aging drugs.

Reasons that people use DHEA supplements include help with:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: DHEA is thought to be essential in modulating cognition, memory, and other brain functions. DHEA may have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects in the brain and could promote the growth of new neurons. DHEA may also help the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine.
  • Obesity: there are conflicting results from studies looking at DHEA and obesity. Animal studies have found that DHEA helped reduce body weight, but human studies didn’t find a similar result.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Lupus: lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder. Several studies indicate that taking DHEA can improve the quality of life for people with lupus, although it may not change the course of their disease. Studies have found that taking DHEA supplements helps some people with lupus take fewer prescription medicines. DHEA may also help improve mental function, reduce flare-up frequency and boost bone mass.
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Menopause symptoms: DHEA is a popular supplement among women experiencing menopause symptoms. Preliminary studies have found supplementing with DHEA helped raise some hormone levels in postmenopausal women. Some proponents feel DHEA can alleviate menopausal symptoms without increasing the risk of breast or uterine cancer, although the research is limited.
  • Metabolic syndrome: studies show DHEA can improve insulin resistance and reduce abdominal fat. Research indicates that DHEA can lower inflammation in the arteries and reduce stiffness of the arteries.
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Depression: a few studies looking at people with major depression found DHEA improved symptoms compared to a placebo.
  • Erectile dysfunction: in one study, men with erectile dysfunction were better able to get and sustain an erection when taking DHEA, possibly because the body converts it into testosterone. In women, DHEA may help improve sex drive.
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Adrenal insufficiency: DHEA is a hormone made by the adrenal glands. When someone has adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal glands aren’t producing enough hormones, including DHEA and cortisol. This can occur because of problems with the pituitary gland or damage to the adrenal glands. Studies have found taking DHEA may improve fatigue, mood, and well-being.
  • Cervical cancer
  • Heart disease: some studies link low DHEA levels with increased heart disease.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): in people with IBD, levels of DHEA appear to be low. A small study found that DHEA did help people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Some of the above are supported by evidence, while other benefits are only based on anecdotal evidence.

DHEA is thought to slow aging, enhance sex drugs, promote weight loss, and strengthen the immune system. Many supplements with DHEA are marketed as testosterone boosters, so they’re used to help increase muscle mass and reduce fat.

Along with supplements, you can naturally raise DHEA levels with calorie restriction and regular exercise.

Symptoms of Low DHEA Levels

Some of the potential symptoms that could indicate a person has low DHEA levels include:

  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Low sex drive
  • Inflammation
  • Psoriasis
  • Brittle bones and fractures
  • Memory problems

Side Effects

If someone uses DHEA as a supplement, it will affect their endocrine system and hormonal activity. It’s not been tested over a long time either, so you must be mindful of possible side effects.

In women, side effects could include abnormal or irregular menstruation, oil skin, increased discharge, or increased hair growth.

In men, DHEA side effects could lead to smaller testes and enlarged breasts.

One version of DHEA, 7-keto-DHEA, is a natural DHEA byproduct. It’s not converted to steroid hormones by the body, so the risk of hormonal side effects is significantly reduced. People use 7-keto-DHEA supplements for weight loss, muscle building, and immune system stimulation.

What Does DHEA Stand For—Final Thoughts

What does DHEA stand for? DHEA stands for dehydroepiandrosterone. This hormone is produced by the body and used to make androgens and estrogens, which are male and female sex hormones. Your DHEA levels steadily decrease as you age, and some people use DHEA supplements to combat the effects of declines in this steroid hormone.

 

Sources

Mount Sinai. “Dehydroepiandrosterone.” Accessed September 19, 2022.

Mental Health America. “DHEA.” Accessed September 19, 2022.

Baulieu, Etienne-Emile, et al. “Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate and aging: Contribution of the DHEAge Study to a sociomedical issue.” NAS, April 11, 2022. Accessed September 19, 2022.

NIH National Library of Medicine. “DHEA.” MedlinePlus, April 2, 2022. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Sawalha, Amr H. and Kovats, Susan. “Dehydroepiandrosterone in systemic lupus erythematosus.” NIH National Library of Medicine, 2009. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Professor Gerard Conway. “DHEA Deficiency and Treatment.” Endocrine Online, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Wong, Samuel YS et al. “Low DHEAS levels are associated with depressive symptoms in elderly Chinese men: results from a large study.” Asian Journal of Andrology, November 2011. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Decker, Carrie ND. “The Anti-Aging Effects of DHEA.” Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, May 4, 2021. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Prough, Russell A. “Novel mechanisms for DHEA action.” Journal of Molecular Endocrinology, April 1, 2016. Accessed September 19, 2022.

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