DHEA For Low T: Facts and Warnings

I have treated many men with low testosterone and many ask for a solution that does not involve testosterone replacement therapy. This blog will discuss the use of DHEA in men and how effective it may be for solving the symptoms of low T.

DHEA is a hormone that is naturally made by the human body. It can be made in the laboratory from chemicals found in wild yam and soy. However, the human body cannot make DHEA from these chemicals, so simply eating wild yam or soy will not increase DHEA levels.

Athletes and other men use DHEA to increase muscle mass, strength, and energy. But DHEA use is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

DHEA is also used by men for erectile dysfunction (ED) and in men who have low levels of testosterone in order to improve well-being and sexuality.

Like many dietary supplements, DHEA has some quality control problems. Some products labeled to contain DHEA have been found to contain no DHEA at all, while others contained more than the labeled amount.

How does DHEA work?
DHEA is a “parent hormone” produced by the adrenal glands near the kidneys and in the liver. In men, DHEA is also secreted by the testes. It is changed in the body to a hormone called androstenedione. Androstenedione is then changed into the major male hormones including testosterone.

DHEA levels seem to go down as people get older. Some researchers think that replacing DHEA with supplements might prevent some diseases and conditions.

DHEA is Possibly Effective for:
• Aging skin. Some research shows that taking DHEA by mouth increases the thickness and hydration of the top layer of the skin in elderly people. Early research shows that applying DHEA to the skin for 4 months improves the appearance of skin.

DHEA has Insufficient Evidence for:
• Aging. Taking DHEA does not seem to improve body shape, bone strength, muscle strength, insulin sensitivity, or quality of life in people older than 60 who have low DHEA levels.
• Hormone deficiency in men (partial androgen deficiency). Early research suggests that taking 25 mg of DHEA daily for one year might improve mood, fatigue and join pain in older men with hormone deficiency.
• Physical performance. Some research shows that older adults who take DHEA have improved measures of muscle strength. However, other research has found no effect of taking DHEA on muscle strength.
• Sexual dysfunction. Evidence on the effectiveness of DHEA for sexual dysfunction is inconsistent. Taking DHEA by mouth for 24 weeks seems to improve symptoms including erectile dysfunction and overall satisfaction in men. However, it does not seem to be helpful if erectile dysfunction is caused by diabetes or nerve disorders.
• Weight loss. Early evidence suggests that DHEA seems to help overweight older people who are likely to get metabolic syndrome to lose weight. It is not known if DHEA helps younger people to lose weight.

Bottom Line: DHEA is probably not a panacea for low T or a treatment for ED or erectile dysfunction.

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