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Learn About DHEA

You may have seen these four letters on the nutrition label of certain supplements. The technical name for DHEA is Dehydroepiandrosterone, so no wonder it has been shortened to DHEA! DHEA is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which is then converted into estrogen, testosterone or a number of other hormones, by the body. There are over 150 hormones produced by the adrenal glands, and the most abundant of these is DHEA.

DHEA levels peak in our 20s and tend to decline rapidly after about age 30. Because of this, DHEA supplements have been promoted as being beneficial to combat aging and as an alternative medicine to hormone replacement therapy.

In addition to possibly being an anti-aging medicine, DHEA has shown some benefits in treating the following:

Andropause (The male equivalent of menopause)
Sexual dysfunction
Adrenal Insufficiency
Increase immune system function

While DHEA is made in the body, synthetic versions can be made in a laboratory from a substance called diosgenin, which is found in wild yams and soybeans. Creams and wild yam/soybean supplements are often marketed as a natural source of DHEA, but the body cannot convert these substances into DHEA. The conversion must be done in a laboratory, and passed on to consumers as actual DHEA supplement.

DHEA looks to have more to offer for men than women. As men age, testosterone depletion can have a variety of negative effects, from a decrease in libido to a loss of muscle mass, men seem to benefit more from using DHEA supplements. With the possibility of bringing back ones sex drive, to making a man feel younger and physically stronger, DHEA may be just what men need to combat the negative aspects of aging.

Dosages of DHEA vary greatly, being anywhere from 5mg all the way up to 2000mg daily. Such high doses are rarely recommended, as most people seem to benefit from 25mg (for women) to 50mg (for men) on a daily basis.

While the benefits of DHEA supplementation seem to be many, the final ruling on supplementing with this hormone is still out. It seems that the younger age groups will not gain much benefit from DHEA. However, as we age, hormonal replacement therapy with DHEA may be just what we need to keep our energy levels up and help us to remain active and vibrant.