The question comes up frequently whether DHEA benefits men and women the same or does it have different effects depending on the gender. Since DHEA is a steroid hormone directly tied to the sex hormones, it’s a valid question. This article focuses on researched key benefits. A previous article “What is Dhea and What is it Used for” covered the basics and potential side effects so it may be helpful to read it too.
DHEA Benefits for Men
For men, the biggest question is whether or not DHEA will increase stamina and testosterone levels, without increasing estrogen levels. There is some evidence including an abstract from PubMed that supports that men may experience an increase in muscle strength and in fat loss. That would be desirable for men, and for women, but unfortunately there isn’t as much support that supplemental DHEA may have this same effect on women.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study also showed that 40 men who had low DHEA levels, also had erectile dysfunction. A daily dose of 50 mg of DHEA in those men showed an increase in sexual performance. It’s important to note that taking a DHEA supplement may not help someone with erectile dysfunction if their DHEA levels were not low to begin with. There are also other supplements that may be helpful for erectile dysfunction and other potential causes to consider in this article on Winning the Fight Against Impotency. While there is more evidence that supports DHEA and bone health for women, some studies have shown it may be helpful for men too (see below).
DHEA Benefits for Women
There are several benefits of DHEA supplementation for women, just not in the same areas as there are for men. In older women (post-menopausal), the University of Colorado Division of Geriatric Medicine found that DHEA therapy for one year improved spine bone mineral density. This study also found that in adults (women and men) 70 years and older, DHEA therapy improved hip bone mineral density. The University suggested more studies should be done to see how DHEA could benefit bone health.
Lupus or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Research on the autoimmune condition Lupus supports the use of DHEA. “A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 381 women with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) showed that the use of DHEA at a dose of 200 mg daily decreased symptoms and reduced the frequency of disease flare-ups.” However results of the study also showed that some experienced a decrease in HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) which affected their total ratio negatively. The lupus study was over a 12-month period and over that time, testosterone levels were also raised. Increased testosterone levels for a woman often means developing more facial hair – not a good thing. The article doesn’t say whether all or some of the participants had increased testosterone, but the point is that when using DHEA, especially long term, serum levels should be checked.
Adrenal Fatigue, Imbalance and Insufficiency
Another area that women have benefited from DHEA supplementation is for adrenal fatigue, imbalance and insufficiency. Some medical doctors dismiss the idea of adrenal fatigue. But for many, especially women, it is a very real condition. Years of constant stress take it’s toll on the body and our hormones. The result is an exhausted state that will not be corrected quickly. One pill alone, whether it’s DHEA or some miracle drug, isn’t going to fix it either. DHEA may play a helpful part though in adrenal fatigue. Those poor little adrenals are so busy trying to help the body adapt to stress, they go into overdrive just making cortisol. The other hormones such as Pregnenolone and DHEA suffer. It makes sense that DHEA supplementation may help with fatigue then. Adrenal support would also be necessary. One study on adrenal insufficiency noted that women experienced an improvement in feelings of well-being, energy, mood, as well as sexuality or increased libido. Another study (where adrenal insufficiency was not a factor) only supported improved libido in older women, not men or younger women.
Here is a simplified version of the hormone pathway so you can see how important DHEA is to hormone production. This also helps demonstrate how important cholesterol is to the whole process.
Is DHEA worth the risk?
There are certainly some contraindications regarding the use of DHEA and it is not for everyone. Consult with a practitioner and get your levels tested to make sure it’s worth considering. Evaluate the risks and benefits before starting therapy. Here is a Grade Scale with the Scientific Evidence for DHEA uses. Check out any potential drug interactions. After you’ve done your research and due diligence, always go with the lowest dose recommended. In this case, more definitely is not better.
If you decide to supplement with DHEA, there are many strengths and options available from Natural Healthy Concepts, as well as other sources.
If you have tried DHEA and want to share your experience, please comment below.