What is DHEA?
Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA is a very common compound in bodybuilding supplements. This chemical is considered as a Pro hormone which explains its wide usage in the bodybuilding industry. To many people, DHEA is the gateway to lean muscle mass, longevity, and a strong body little do they know that it does so much more than that.
According to clinical studies, DHEA plays a vital role in over 150 metabolic functions in the body. This is why our bodies are designed to produce their own DHEA to meet the huge demand. All of us naturally produce DHEA from the adrenal glands. Men also produce little amounts of DHEA through their testes.
Like most other hormones in the body, DHEA’s production is usually at its peak when we are in our 20s. At this age, our bodies have a lot of DHEA which is then converted into various other useful hormones. Dehydroepiandrosterone can be converted into sex hormones and androstenedione which are used to enhance various functions including sexual performance. The problem comes in as we grow into our 30s. At this age, the body is unable to produce as much DHEA as it used to which means that all metabolic functions that relied on this compound either slow down or stop altogether. It also means that the sex hormones that came from DHEA will reduce in number. This is where most people start noticing reductions in muscle mass as they gain more weight. This is an unacceptable change to every fitness enthusiast and this is where DHEA supplements come in.
DHEA supplements help to boost the levels of this vital hormone in your body. Some people use it due to DHEA deficiency while others simply take it for aggressive bodybuilding results. Studies have shown that DHEA helps in preventing fat accumulation while boosting the growth of lean muscle mass. The hormone functions as an anabolic steroid with massive benefits and that are why it is even banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
What you must understand is that DHEA isn’t just beneficial to bodybuilders. The hormone enhances secretion of natural growth hormone meaning that its importance and uses go way beyond muscle development. These supplements, therefore, are not limited to athletes alone but anyone whose DHEA levels are running low.
Benefits of DHEA
- Prevents Inflammations
Research shows that individuals with autoimmune disorders usually tend to have low DHEA levels. Conditions such as arthritis, thyroid disorders, and lupus have all been linked to DHEA deficiency. High inflammation is also known to cause metabolic syndrome leading to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity. These are some of the most common illnesses in the aging population and it is no coincidence that they are also the ones with the lowest amounts of the supplement.
Scientists explain that DHEA supplementations help in fighting chronic inflammation and in maintaining healthy hormonal balance. This not only protects you from age-related health issues but also reduces inflammatory skin reactions, ongoing fatigue, and body aches. It’s also known that DHEA supplements help in increasing testosterone and estrogen levels in the body and this is essential in keeping autoimmune and mood disorders away.
- Boosts Cognitive Functions
The product is very effective in balancing the secretion of different hormones in the body. Maintaining a good balance of different hormones is vital for one’s mental wellbeing. This balance helps in ensuring that chemical processes are running smoothly. Whenever the balance has interfered with depression and other health issues set in. It ensures that this level is kept at a good balance and that’s why these supplements are very useful for the aged population who have the most hormonal imbalance issues.
The National Institute of Health explains that DHEA when used appropriately, can reverse cognitive decline. The hormone protects you from symptoms such as memory loss, slow thinking, and even Alzheimer’s disease. This is great news to the aging populace but the problem is that for this supplement to work high doses must be used. To some people, these doses may work just fine without any complications but to others, high amounts of DHEA can lead to some serious adverse reactions.
More studies show us that DHEA helps in fighting emotional instability. This tackles symptoms such as mood swings, lack of energy, anhedonia, irritability, sadness, worrying and anxiety. For this purpose scientists recommend a dosage of between 25mg to 200mg depending on the specific case.
- Promotes Growth of Lean Muscles Mass and Weight Loss
The product is widely used in bodybuilding supplements as it enhances the development of lean muscle mass. This hormone boosts the production of testosterone a male sex hormone that is crucial in the building of muscle, improving strength and stamina. When you use it alongside a robust workout plan, building lean muscle mass becomes easier.
As men approach their mid-30s, lots of testosterone starts getting converted into estrogen. This reduces muscle mass and leads to an increase in fat which is distributed around the breasts and the belly. DHEA supplements help to restore the hormonal balance between testosterone and estrogen eliminating excess estrogen and the symptoms that come with it.
Another very popular use and benefit of DHEA is in weight loss. A lot of obesity and overweight cases are due to slow metabolism and the body’s inability to burn fat. A slow metabolism can be an inherited issue meaning that people as young as 20 years old can experience excessive weight gain problems exposing them to fatal cardiovascular diseases. The product helps to enhance metabolic rate increasing the speed through which food is digested in your body. This prevents excessive absorption that leads to weight gain. Additionally, it’ll help your body to burn down more adipose. Fat deposits will be broken down and used or excreted from the body leading to weight loss. As you lose the weight, more room will be left for growth and development of muscle mass which will leave you both healthy and great looking.
- Improves Bone Density
Hormonal imbalance, poor diet, aging, autoimmune and thyroid disorders are some of the causes of osteoporosis or bone loss. With weak and brittle bones, fractures and injuries become the order of the day and this can very easily end your career.
DHEA fights osteoporosis in various ways. Firstly, it helps to bring different hormones to harmonious levels. Secondly, it helps to reverse autoimmune and thyroid disorder symptoms like bone loss. Finally, the product will increase the secretion of estrogen in post-menopause and older women which aid in increasing bone mineral density.
- Enhances Cardiovascular Health
Enough DHEA in the body reduces chances of getting blood clots, clogged arteries, high cholesterol and other heart-related conditions. This hormone also prevents fatal visceral fat and the hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis).
Studies also show that the product plays a crucial role in obstructing the process of atherogenic processes and the functions of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. This is not just beneficial for the elderly but also in young individuals.
Soybeans and yams are the only known natural food sources of chemicals that can be used to make the product. Getting the safest and most effective supplement requires utmost attention especially considering that the FDA isn’t very strict in regulating them. Experts also recommend that you purchase the supplement directly from a physician to ensure that you get a safe product.
DHEA supplements are available in form of tablets, capsules, topical cream and sublingual drops. You can choose any of them depending on the condition you are addressing or the benefits you are looking for. The dosage also ranges from person to person.
- 200mg to 500mg is the recommended dosage for lupus and depression patients. This should be taken under physician’s supervision.
- To improve bone density, 50mg – 100mg daily is sufficient.
- 25mg to 50mg to treat erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness and menopausal symptoms
- Schizophrenia and cognitive decline should be treated with 25mg DHEA taken twice per day for six weeks
You are advised to start taking DHEA at small dosages to see your body’s reaction before increasing the quantities. Individuals under the age of 30 are also advised to only take the product under the prescription of a medical practitioner.
DHEA increases testosterone levels which can be a problem for women. When women use these supplements in excess, they are likely to experience hair loss, the growth of facial hair and voice changes. Men can also end up experiencing side effects such as shrunken testicles and breast enlargement if the supplements increase estrogen levels too high.
Fortunately, you won’t have to deal with any of these side effects if you take the supplements as prescribed.
Sol Ruiz heads our Research Digest department. He graduated from the New York University where he obtained his Master’s Degree in Public Health.