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Raising DHEA Naturally

April 30, 2014 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Recently, a client inquired about the use of DHEA supplements as a means of counteracting male aging. Before I address that specific question, here’s a brief primer on DHEA. Dehydroepidandrosterone (DHEA) is an adrenal hormone which is considered “a reliable endocrine marker of aging because in humans and nonhumnan primates its circulating concentrations are very high during young adulthood, and the concentrations then decline markedly during aging”. This is of consequence because circulating DHEA is documented as having anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, cardioprotective and immune enhancing activity. However, controlled studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of DHEA supplementation have demonstrated inconsistent and mixed results. This begs the question: Is there a good reason to attempt to manipulate the predictable decline in DHEA in aging men?

The short answer to this question is that any serious, supplementary modification of DHEA should involve the assistance of an informed physician. This applies even though DHEA supplements are considered natural as they’re typically synthesized from soy or wild yam. Anytime you take an isolated hormone, it affects numerous other hormones. In the case of DHEA, estrogen and testosterone concentrations may be influenced. It’s also valuable to determine a baseline measure of DHEA sulfate and subsequent changes which occur due to supplementation. This requires monitoring by a skilled endocrinologist.

For better or worse, DHEA supplements are easy to find in health food stores and online. Unlike other hormones, they require no prescription or professional oversight. But, what isn’t as well known is that DHEA levels can be positively influenced by a variety of health promoting activities. A current study in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reveals that practicing yoga six days a week, for a total of twelve weeks, raises DHEA and growth hormone concentrations in adult men and women in their 40’s. Resistance training has likewise been shown to restore youthful DHEA levels in older men resulting in greater muscle mass and strength. Additionally, walking in green or natural settings aka “forest environments” and meditation also raise circulating levels of DHEA sulfate as evidenced by peer-reviewed, scientific trials. The advantage of incorporating any or all of these activities as part of an anti-aging program is that they provide a broad array of health benefits beyond hormonal modification – improved immunity, mood, lower blood pressure and beyond. That’s why I recommend the previously mentioned lifestyle choices before even considering DHEA supplements.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEAS) As An Endocrine Marker of (link)

Study 2 – Dehydroepiandrosterone Supplementation in Elderly Men: A Meta- (link)

Study 3 – Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Replacement Decreases Insulin (link)

Study 4 – Effect of Regular Yogic Training on Growth Hormone and DHEA (link)

Study 5 – Resistance Training Restores Muscle Sex Steroid Hormone (link)

Study 6 – Salivary Hormonal Responses to Resistance Exercise in Trained and … (link)

Study 7 – Effect of Training Status and Exercise Mode on Endogenous Steroid (link)

Study 8 – Exercise and Sex Steroid Hormones in Skeletal Muscle (link)

Study 9 – Acute Effects of Walking in Forest Environments on Cardiovascular  … (link)

Study 10 – Elevated Serum Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate Levels in (link)

The Effects of Increased DHEA vs Estrogen Replacement Therapy

Source: J Endocrinol. 2005 Nov;187(2):169-96 (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Men's Health, Women's Health

8 Comments & Updates to “Raising DHEA Naturally”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: Maintaining higher DHEA concentrations may reduce cardiovascular mortality in older men …


    J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Oct 28;64(17):1801-10.

    Dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulfate predict the 5-year risk of coronary heart disease events in elderly men.

    BACKGROUND: The adrenal sex hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which is present in serum mainly as the sulfate DHEA-S, is the most abundant steroid hormone in human blood. Its levels decline dramatically with age. Despite the great amount of literature on vascular and metabolic actions of DHEA/-S, evidence for an association between DHEA/-S levels and cardiovascular events is contradictory.

    OBJECTIVES: This study tested the hypothesis that serum DHEA and DHEA-S are predictors of major coronary heart disease (CHD) and/or cerebrovascular disease (CBD) events in a large cohort of elderly men.

    METHODS: We used gas and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze baseline levels of DHEA and DHEA-S in the prospective population-based Osteoporotic Fractures in Men study in Sweden (2,416 men, ages 69 to 81 years). Complete cardiovascular clinical outcomes were available from national Swedish registers.

    RESULTS: During the 5-year follow-up, 302 participants experienced a CHD event, and 225 had a CBD event. Both DHEA and DHEA-S levels were inversely associated with the age-adjusted risk of a CHD event; the hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals per SD increase were 0.82 (0.73 to 0.93) and 0.86 (0.77 to 0.97), respectively. In contrast, DHEA/-S showed no statistically significant association with the risk of CBD events. The association between DHEA and CHD risk remained significant after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, serum total testosterone and estradiol, C-reactive protein, and renal function, and remained unchanged after exclusion of the first 2.6 years of follow-up to reduce reverse causality.

    CONCLUSIONS: Low serum levels of DHEA and its sulfate predict an increased risk of CHD, but not CBD, events in elderly men.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Updated 09/22/15:


    Addict Biol. 2015 Mar 26.

    Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone add-on therapy on mood, decision making and subsequent relapse of polydrug users.

    A major problem in the treatment of addiction is predicting and preventing relapse following a rehabilitation program. Recently, in preclinical rodent studies dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) was found to markedly improve the resistance to drug reuse. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we examined the effect of DHEA on relapse rates in adult polydrug users taking part in a detoxification program enriched with intensive psychosocial interventions and aftercare. During treatment, participants (79 percent males, mean age 28) consumed DHEA (100 mg/day) or placebo daily for at least 30 days. Of the 121 initial volunteers, 64 participated for at least 1 month. While in treatment, DHEA reduced negative affect on the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (F = 4.25, P = 0.04). Furthermore, in a 16-month follow-up, we found that reuse rates in the DHEA condition were about a third compared with placebo (12 versus 38 percent; χ2  = 5.03, P = 0.02). DHEA treatment also resulted in an increase in DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) 1 month following treatment, and the level of DHEA-S predicted relapse in the follow-up assessment.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 09/22/15:


    Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2015 Aug;83(2):173-9.

    The association between serum dehydroepiandrosterone Sulphate (DHEA-S) level and bone mineral density in Korean men.

    CONTEXT: Many lines of evidence indicate that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) plays a distinct role in bone metabolism and that its sulphated form (DHEA-S), which is easily measured in blood, may be a potential biomarker of osteoporosis-related phenotypes. However, most previous epidemiologic studies focused on postmenopausal women and reported conflicting results.

    OBJECTIVE: We aimed to investigate the association between the serum DHEA-S level and bone mass in men.

    DESIGN AND METHODS: This large cross-sectional study included 1089 healthy Korean men who participated in a routine health screening examination. Bone mineral density (BMD) at the lumbar spine, total femur, femur neck, and trochanter and serum DHEA-S level were obtained in all subjects.

    RESULTS: After adjustment for age, body mass index, lifestyle factors and serum levels of calcium, phosphorus, testosterone, 25-OH-vitamin D3 and cortisol, higher serum DHEA-S concentrations were associated with higher BMD values at all skeletal sites. Consistently, compared to the subjects in the highest DHEA-S quartile (Q4), those in the lowest DHEA-S quartile (Q1) showed significantly lower BMD values. Multiple logistic regression analyses revealed that the odds ratios for the risk of lower BMD (T-score <-1) increased in a dose-dependent manner across decreasing DHEA-S quartiles and the odds for the risk of lower BMD were 2·59-fold higher in Q1 than in Q4. CONCLUSION: These findings support previous evidences that DHEA-S has favourable effects on bone mass in men and suggest that a low serum DHEA-S level may be a potential risk factor for male osteoporosis. Be well! JP

  4. JP Says:

    Updated 09/22/15:


    PLoS One. 2014 Aug 8;9(8):e104869.

    The relationship between dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), working memory and distraction–a behavioral and electrophysiological approach.

    Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEAS) have been reported to have memory enhancement effects in humans. A neuro-stimulatory action and an anti-cortisol mechanism of action may contribute to that relation. In order to study DHEA, DHEAS and cortisol relations to working memory and distraction, we recorded the electroencephalogram of 23 young women performing a discrimination (no working memory load) or 1-back (working memory load) task in an audio-visual oddball paradigm. We measured salivary DHEA, DHEAS and cortisol both before each task and at 30 and 60 min. Under working memory load, a higher baseline cortisol/DHEA ratio was related to higher distraction as indexed by an enhanced novelty P3. This suggests that cortisol may lead to increased distraction whereas DHEA may hinder distraction by leading to less processing of the distractor. An increased DHEA production with consecutive cognitive tasks was found and higher DHEA responses attributed to working memory load were related to enhanced working memory processing as indexed by an enhanced visual P300. Overall, the results suggest that in women DHEA may oppose cortisol effects reducing distraction and that a higher DHEA response may enhance working memory at the electrophysiological level.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 09/22/15:


    Nutr J. 2014 Jun 3;13:53.

    Randomised controlled trial of the effects of L-ornithine on stress markers and sleep quality in healthy workers.

    BACKGROUND: L-ornithine is a non-essential, non-protein amino acid. Although L-ornithine is contained in various foods, the amount is usually small.Recently, studies have shown that orally administered L-ornithine reduced the stress response in animals.From these findings, we speculated that L-ornithine may play a role in the relieve of stress and improve sleep and fatigue symptoms in humans. Through a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, we asked if L-ornithine could be beneficial to stress and sleep in healthy workers.

    METHOD: Fifty-two apparently healthy Japanese adults who had previously felt slight stress as well as fatigue were recruited to be study participants and were randomly divided into either the L-ornithine (400 mg/day) or placebo group. They orally consumed the respective test substance every day for 8 weeks. Serum was collected for the assessment of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S). Perceived mood and quality of sleep were measured by the Profile of Mood States (POMS), Athens Insomnia Scale (AIS), and Ogri-Shirakawa-Azumi sleep inventory MA version (OSA-MA).

    RESULTS: Serum cortisol levels and the cortisol/DHEA-S ratio were significantly decreased in the L-ornithine group in comparison with the placebo group. Also, anger was reduced and perceived sleep quality was improved in the L-ornithine group.

    CONCLUSION: L-ornithine supplementation has the potential to relieve stress and improve sleep quality related to fatigue, both objectively and subjectively.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 04/09/16:


    Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2016 Feb 21;200:11-15.

    Does dehydroepiandrosterone improve pregnancy rate in women undergoing IVF/ICSI with expected poor ovarian response according to the Bologna criteria? A randomized controlled trial.

    OBJECTIVE: To provide the best available evidence on the role of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) treatment in improving the outcome of in vitro fertilization (IVF)/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in women with poor ovarian response (POR).

    STUDY DESIGN: A randomized controlled trial conducted in Cairo University hospitals and Dar Al-Teb subfertility and assisted conception centre, Giza, Egypt. 140 women undergoing IVF/ICSI with POR according to the Bologna criteria were randomly divided into 2 equal groups. The study group received DHEA 25mg three times daily for 12 weeks before the IVF/ICSI cycles and the control group did not receive DHEA. Controlled ovarian stimulation (COH) was started on the second day of menstruation using human menopausal gonadotropins, cetrotide 0.25mg was started when the leading follicle reached 14mm. The main outcome measures were the clinical pregnancy rate, ongoing pregnancy rate, retrieved oocytes, fertilization rate, gonadotropins doses and COH days.

    RESULTS: The DHEA group had significantly higher clinical pregnancy rate (32.8% vs 15.7%, p=0.029), ongoing pregnancy rate (28.5% vs 12.8%), retrieved oocytes (6.9±3 vs 5.8±3.1, p=0.03), fertilization rate (62.3±27.4 vs 52.2±29.8, p=0.039), significantly less gonadotropins doses (3383±717.5IU vs 3653.5±856IU, p=0.045) and COH days (11.6±1.8 vs 12.6±1.06, p=0.001).

    CONCLUSION: DHEA increases the number of oocytes, fertilization rate, fertilized oocytes, and clinical pregnancy rate and ongoing pregnancy rate in women with POR according to the Bologna criteria. DHEA was well tolerated by the patients and was associated with less COH days and gonadotropins doses.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 03/13/17:


    J Bone Miner Res. 2017 Mar 9.

    Low Serum DHEAS Predicts Increased Fracture Risk in Older Men – the MrOS Sweden Study.

    The adrenal-derived hormones dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfate (DHEAS) are the most abundant circulating hormones and their levels decline substantially with age. DHEAS is considered an inactive precursor which is converted into androgens and estrogens via local metabolism in peripheral target tissues. The predictive value of serum DHEAS for fracture risk is unknown. The aim of this study was, therefore, to assess the associations between baseline DHEAS levels and incident fractures in a large cohort of older men.

    Serum DHEAS levels were analyzed with mass spectrometry in the population-based Osteoporotic Fractures in Men study in Sweden (n = 2568, age 69-81 years). Incident X-ray validated fractures (all, n = 594; non-vertebral major osteoporotic, n = 255; hip, n = 175; clinical vertebral, n = 206) were ascertained during a median follow-up of 10.6 years. DHEAS levels were inversely associated with the risk of any fracture (hazard ratio (HR) per SD decrease 1.14, 95% CI 1.05-1.24), non-vertebral major osteoporotic fractures (HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.16-1.48) and hip fractures (HR 1.18, 95% CI 1.02-1.37) but not clinical vertebral fractures (HR 1.09, 95% CI 0.95-1.26) in Cox regression models adjusted for age, BMI and prevalent fractures. Further adjustment for traditional risk factors for fracture, BMD and/or physical performance variables as well as serum sex steroid levels only slightly attenuated the associations between serum DHEAS and fracture risk. Similarly, the point estimates were only marginally reduced after adjustment for FRAX estimates with BMD. The inverse association between serum DHEAS and all fractures or major osteoporotic fractures was nonlinear, with a substantial increase in fracture risk (all fractures 22%, major osteoporotic fractures 33%) for those participants with serum DHEAS levels below the median (0.60 µg/ml).

    In conclusion, low serum DHEAS levels are a risk marker of mainly non-vertebral fractures in older men, of whom those with DHEAS levels below 0.60 µg/ml are at highest risk.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 05/04/17:


    Chin J Physiol. 2017 Apr 30;60(2):124-130.

    Higher DHEAS Levels Associated with Long-Term Practicing of Tai Chi.

    Tai Chi has many benefits for middle-aged/older individuals including improvements to muscle strength and various body lipid components. DHEAS and testosterone have anti-obesity/anti-aging characteristics and also improve libido, vitality and immunity levels. Thus, the aim of the present study was to investigate the differences between middle-aged Tai Chi practitioners (n = 17) and sedentary individuals (n = 17) in terms of leg strength, blood levels of cholesterol, triglyceride, HDL, as well as DHEAS, testosterone and cortisol. Unpaired t-tests were used to identify significant differences between the two groups. There were no significant differences in body composition, leg strength, blood lipid components and testosterone. However, the Tai Chi practitioners had higher levels of DHEAS (P < 0.01) and lower levels of cortisol (P < 0.05). Thus, Tai Chi practitioners have a higher ratio of DHEAS to cortisol, which might have potential benefits in terms of improving an individual’s health-related quality of life during the aging. Be well! JP

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