DHEA

The blood level of DHEA in old age is 10 % or less of that at age 20.
Maintaining DHEA keeps function normal.

THE MOTHER OF TESTOSTERONE

Diagram, showing conversion of cholesterol to the neurosteroids

The letters “DHEA” are an acronym for DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE, the hormone produced in greatest quantity by the youthful human and other primate apes. (1)
In smaller animals, the hormone is only produced in the brain, so blood levels are low.
The brains of humans and the Primates also make DHEA: small amounts are made in the gonads and by the skin; but in addition Human and primate adrenal glands process cholesterol into Pregnenolone and from Pregnenolone, they make DHEA in such large amounts in youth, that weight-for-weight, it exceeds the aggregate of all the other hormones. (1)
DHEA levels are high at birth because the mother produces large amounts during pregnancy and the hormone crosses the placenta to the baby.
Levels fall rapidly after birth and remain low until “adrenarche” at age 8, to 13 or so, at which point both males and females begin to maximise DHEA production. (1)
See the graphic below and for detail, see the website, “YOU and YOUR HORMONES“,or read
The letters “DHEA” are an acronym for DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE, the hormone produced in greatest quantity by the youthful human and other primate apes. (1)
In smaller animals, the hormone is only produced in the brain, so blood levels are low.
The brains of humans and the Primates also make DHEA: small amounts are made in the gonads and by the skin; but in addition Human and primate adrenal glands process cholesterol into Pregnenolone and from Pregnenolone, they make DHEA in such large amounts in youth, that weight-for-weight, it exceeds the aggregate of all the other hormones. (1)
DHEA levels are high at birth because the mother produces large amounts during pregnancy and the hormone crosses the placenta to the baby.
Levels fall rapidly after birth and remain low until “adrenarche” at age 8, to 13 or so, at which point both males and females begin to maximise DHEA production. (1)
See the graphic below and for detail, see the website, “YOU and YOUR HORMONES“,or read
The letters “DHEA” are an acronym for DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE, the hormone produced in greatest quantity by the youthful human and other primate apes. (1)
In smaller animals, the hormone is only produced in the brain, so blood levels are low.
The brains of humans and the Primates also make DHEA: small amounts are made in the gonads and by the skin; but in addition Human and primate adrenal glands process cholesterol into Pregnenolone and from Pregnenolone, they make DHEA in such large amounts in youth, that weight-for-weight, it exceeds the aggregate of all the other hormones. (1)
DHEA levels are high at birth because the mother produces large amounts during pregnancy and the hormone crosses the placenta to the baby.
Levels fall rapidly after birth and remain low until “adrenarche” at age 8, to 13 or so, at which point both males and females begin to maximise DHEA production. (1)
See the graphic below and for detail, see the website, “YOU and YOUR HORMONES“,or read
The letters “DHEA” are an acronym for DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE, the hormone produced in greatest quantity by the youthful human and other primate apes. (1)
In smaller animals, the hormone is only produced in the brain, so blood levels are low.
The brains of humans and the Primates also make DHEA: small amounts are made in the gonads and by the skin; but in addition Human and primate adrenal glands process cholesterol into Pregnenolone and from Pregnenolone, they make DHEA in such large amounts in youth, that weight-for-weight, it exceeds the aggregate of all the other hormones. (1)
DHEA levels are high at birth because the mother produces large amounts during pregnancy and the hormone crosses the placenta to the baby.
Levels fall rapidly after birth and remain low until “adrenarche” at age 8, to 13 or so, at which point both males and females begin to maximise DHEA production. (1)
See the graphic below: for detail, see the website, “YOU and YOUR HORMONES“, and read the first reference below, “DHEAS and Human Development: An Evolutionary Perspective“.

DHEA production and delivery to the cells

DHEAS, the water-soluble, Sulfated form, released by the adrenals, circulates in the blood. The amount produced varies through the first 20 years of life, as shown in Figure 2 (from the website, “YOU and YOUR HORMONES“).
The high levels from the 8th week following conception, to birth are due to high production by the mother: children’s blood levels from birth to 8 years is low.
Caveat:
This graph gives an excellent impression of the variation in the level of DHEA, but it is inaccurate from age 14 to age 20: normal adult DHEA levels in the 2nd and 3rd decades are 12-14 micromoles/litre for males and 10-12 micromoles/litre for females.
So the red line should rise to 10,000+ Nanomoles/litre, starting at age 14 (approximately).

Figure 2, DHEA levels in the fetus, from birth to Adrenarche and in the “teens.”
Normal serum levels of DHEAS, during pregnancy and up to age 20
Normal serum levels of DHEAS, during pregnancy and up to age 20
How the cells use DHEAS

DHEAS is absorbed by all cells in the body and is converted to DHEA, the fat-soluble form. Each cell uses its personal mix of “3 beta hydroxy-steroid dehydrogenase” enzymes, to change DHEA into the “micro-hormones” which it needs to function efficiently. This is why your fingers make fingernails and your hair roots make hair, while special cells in your bones make blood, et cetera.
Hormone production inside the cells, was labelled “Intracrine hormonogenesis” by Prof.
Dr. Fernand Labrie in the 1980. Dr. Labrie, then Professor of Endocrinology at Laval University, Québec, is now deceased.

Beginning at age 25-30 in females and 30-35 (or earlier) in males, DHEA production by the adrenal glands falls by approximately 1-3% per annum.
So by age 80 the blood contains mainly DHEA made by the brain and the blood level in old age is 10 % or less of that at age 20–25 (it may in fact, fall to zero).
However maintaining DHEA (taking it orally), can keep its levels up and its function normal.

Figure 3: DHEA levels into old age, Vs liability to cancer and other diseases.

Circulating DHEAS levels (NATURAL DHEA production levels in humans, vs. animals) redrawn after (dePeretti & Forest 1976, Parker & Odell 1980, Vermuelen 1980, Orentreich et al. 1984, Labrie et al. 1997).
I took this graphic, which illustrates the effect of DHEA levels on cancer risk, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6106910/, by J.W. Nyce.
I have reproduced the graphic here because the blue and grey lines clearly show what happens to humans’ DHEA level as we age, the red line points out our liability to all the other degenerative diseases (not just cancer)* and the green line shows the liability of other animals.
For further explanation, see my paraphrase of Dr. Nyce’s notes, below the graphic.
* The % risk differs among diseases, but the general trend is the same.

image shows normal DHEA levels for men and women, versus lifetime human cancer risk, versus cancer risk in animals.
Object name is erc-25-R497-g004.jpg

Figure 3, explanation:
In humans, circulating DHEAS (blue and grey lines) is maintained at optimal levels only until about age 25 years, which is our prehistoric life expectancy.
Because we now live much longer than we were originally designed for, increasing risk is observed as age increases (red line).
(http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/incidence/age).
The graphic shows a Human Lifetime cancer risk of 38.4% and a cancer risk of most long-lived mammals, of 4%
(Abegglen et al. (2015).(https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics).
Note that the trend of the (red) line is similar for all degenerative diseases, but the numbers “38.4%” and “4%” only apply to cancers.

HIGH AND LOW DHEA PRODUCERS

As with everything in nature, there is a Bell-curve spectrum of DHEA levels in youth and there is a lifelong difference between the highest and lowest producers.
So those with the lowest production in the “teen years” tend towards a zero level in old age, but some teenagers with low levels get to “80-year-old” levels in their 20s.
Thus a deficiency of DHEA can be found at any age and can cause inefficiency of hormonal function anywhere, including the psychology, central nervous system, the “immune system”, the heart, the thyroid, and everything else.
Because of this, the symptoms of deficiency vary from person to person, depending on which organ is most sensitive to low DHEA.

CAVEAT

DHEA deficiency, more often than not, is accompanied by deficiency of other hormones, even in the 2nd and 3rd decades of life. Examples are progesterone, thyroid 3 (T3), allopregnanolone, testosterone etc.: because of this, the symptoms of DHEA deficiency are extremely variable.

ABOUT DHEA AS A SUPPLEMENT

DHEA AND DOCTORS
The subject of DHEA is a bone of contention in the medical community.
There are 3 “teams”: enthusiastic doctors who think that everybody should take DHEA so as to slow down aging, researchers who mostly agree with them and the naysayers and doomsayers, like the Mayo Clinic, whose objections are mainly “What If?”, “Perhaps” and “We don’t know, so we can’t recommend it”.

OVER-THE-COUNTER DHEA
DHEA has been “OTC” in the USA since 1995 and as Dr. Fernand Labrie, Professor of Endocrinology at Laval U. and an premier expert in the field said in 1988, 
“No serious adverse event related to DHEA has ever been reported in the world literature (thousands of subjects exposed) or in the monitoring of adverse events by the FDA (millions of people exposed)”.…..
Now, more than 34 years later, Dr, Labrie’s statement still holds true, and Maintaining DHEA keeps function normal.

DHEA SUPPLEMENTATION: HOW Maintaining DHEA keeps function normal.
First of all, DHEA is the raw material for a range of essential hormones and taking it tends to “fix everything”, just as Thyroid Hormone 3 “energises everything”.
To cite just a few examples:
[1] DHEA helps the thyroid out by reducing Cortisol – Cortisol “short-circuits” thyroid hormone function by reducing active thyroid-3 hormone and changing any remaining thyroid-3 into inactive thyroid-2. *
Thus cortisol causes whole-body slowdown: the hair follicles drop their hairs out (you’ll see folks with the outer 1/3 of their eyebrows and all that hair on their legs gone), the skin gets dry, the voice gets hoarse, the muscles ache, constipation becomes a problem and cognition suffers.
All of these symptoms improve when DHEA levels are restored; people don’t go back to 100% normal unless the thyroid hormone is restored too, but they improve with DHEA alone.
[2] DHEA helps depression, although the body’s main antidepressants are allopregnanolone and testosterone: this works for teenagers, “20-30s” and older folks too. **
[3] DHEA helps in Lupus, improving symptoms.
[4] It helps female sexual dysfunction by raising the Testosterone level. ***
[5] It helps male sexual dysfunction by raising the Estrogen level. ****

* See ” “INTRACELLULAR HYPOTHYROIDISM“, in the page on Thyroid Hormones.
** In depression, DHEA Improves Testosterone availability (more self confidence = less percieived stress = less anxiety = reduced rumination and reduced focus on troubles and worries) and Normalises thyroid function (better T3/rT3 balance = better efficiency in all areas and in the brain particularly, with better cognition and reduced “fuzzy thinking”) and helps correct any deficiency of Allopregnanolone (Allopregnanolone deficiency is the real reason for depressive states of all kinds).
*** Female sexual dysfunction usually begins when the DHEA level sinks to less than 5.0 pmol/litre, between age 30 and 60.
**** When men take DHEA, some is “aromatized” into estrogen by the liver.
The estrogen does no harm and without estrogen in the system, there is complete loss of libido: both men and women need estrogen to maintain sexual interest.

CAVEAT:
Low DHEA is a part of the circle of despair which generates depression.
Low DHEA is a lifelong condition: the 18-Year-Old with low DHEA is not going to reboot his hormone production just because you got him to supplement with DHEA for a year.
Every low-DHEA sufferer needs to continue supplementing it permanently, and if
supplementation stops, the low-DHEA symptoms recur within 3-4 months (Observation, from my 606 cases).

ABOUT DHEA AND YOUR BRAIN

The brain does not depend completely on adrenal production of DHEA: it makes DHEA, but it is unable to make as much as it needs to manufacture Pregnenolone, Progesterone, Allopregnanolone and Testosterone.
Therefore supplementing with DHEA improves the brain’s production of “downstream” hormones, providing enhanced self-confidence, increased cognitive speed, better sleep, efficient brain cell maintenance, sharper memory and heightened equanimity.
These improvements can be observed in everyone whose serum DHEA is less than 6 micromoles per liter** (µmol/L) before treatment (this is an observation from my experience, with 606 patients, treated between 2006 and 2014).
** Over the 15 years that I spent doing this work (I retired in 2021), I saw a total of approximately 800 low-DHEA patients, almost all of whom (males and females) had a DHEA of less than 6.0 µmol/L when first diagnosed.

ABOUT DHEA AND CANCER

A recent article explains how DHEA prevents cancer
I have done a blog on the subject; the background information is at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3756401/
An older paper showing that DHEA does not cause Ca of the Prostate , by Ward Dean, is at https://warddeanmd.com/is-dhea-contraindicated-in-men-with-benign-prostatic-hypertrophy-bph-or-prostate-cancer/
My note regarding DHEA’s anticancer function, via activation of the TP53 gene, is available at cbhrt.ca.
ABOUT DHEA AND PROSTATE CANCER
DHEA reduces the risk of developing a new cancer by activating the “TP53 gene”, which has the ability to kill mutant cancer cells. Its effect on pre-existing cancer is less clear.
A CASE REPORT:
A 62-year-old man was found to have a rising PSA (5.09) in December 2011 and
a biopsy showed a Gleason 6 prostate cancer in 1, out of 14, biopsy cores.
He was started on DHEA, 100 mg (subsequently reduced to 50 mg) per day.
In December 2012, his PSA was 4.1, but biopsy still showed “PIN” prostate cancer.*
In July 2014, repeat biopsy showed no cancer: at this point, DHEA was discontinued and he has not taken it since.
His PSA fluctuated over the years, with highs of 4.76 in January 2017 and 6.68 in 2021; but it did not rise steadily, as it usually does with prostate cancer. the elevations were due to his progressing benign prostate disease.
In 2022, he had significant, symptomatic BPH and a “transurethral prostate resection”(TURP) was done in August: no cancer was found in the specimen.
He had some complications of the surgery and the resection was repeated in October – the new specimen showed no cancer, either.

* PIN” means “prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia”, the earliest form of prostate cancer.

CONCLUSION:
in this case, a biopsy–proven prostate cancer was cured with DHEA.


ABOUT DHEA AND YOUR HEART

DHEA reduces our liability to heart attacks: here are two case reports:
Back in 2006 two of my male patients, one aged 65 and the other 66, developed “multiple extrasystoles” (random extra heartbeats, with no other obvious problems) at the same time.
I advised them to take DHEA, because DHEA keeps heart function normal.

The 65Y-Old did, the 66Y-Old didn’t.

The 66Y-Old progressed to fibrillation in 2009 and had a “defibrillation” (electric shocks to his heart} to reset his heart rhythm), on two separate occasions.
Later on, in spite of multiple-drug treatment, he had to have a pacemaker put in.
In 2014 he needed stenting of three heart arteries for blockage and in 2020, he had a quadruple heart-artery bypass.
Now aged 84, he says that he is doing well.

That sounds great, but let’s compare his experience with the 65Y-Old’s story:

The 65Y-Old started taking DHEA, 100mg per day, in August of 2006.
He took 100mg until the summer of 2017, when he developed the only male side-effect of DHEA: breast enlargement and tender breast cysts. That was terrible, but he reduced his dose to 50mg and the problem went away in ten days. He has taken 50mg, ever since.**
In March of 2000 he had a brief runny nose, then “Covid toes”, and later on had a combination of a super-itchy rash, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat.
The symptoms improved slowly and he figured they were from “long Covid’, so he waited.
The skin itch improved with a Corticoid cream called “Liderm”, prescribed by a dermatologist in December of 2020, but the heavy breathing and fast heartbeat continued.
In April of 2021 he saw a cardiologist and a respirologist and had an EKG, a chest xray, echocardiogram, exercise stress test with Persantine and a CAT scan of the chest with “contrast” angiogram. All tests were normal and the Cardiologist reported that this 82Y-Old’s heart is perfect, with no evidence of disease in the arteries or any other abnormality. Through the summer of 2022, he resumed his exercise program and the shortness of breath/rapid heartbeat problems have gone away. He is now well.

So, at least based on these two cases, Restoring DHEA to more youthful levels by supplementation can protect the the heart from major cardiovascular risk factors which lead to problems from heart artery blockage.

Keep your DHEA up

Keep your DHEA level close to “25Y-Old normal”: it’s the best thing you can do for your body…… remember, Maintaining DHEA keeps function normal.
If acne, oily skin or hair-on-the-chin begin to bother you when you take it, reduce your intake, but don’t stop it altogether.

All the other hormones, vitamins, minerals etc are important, too, but DHEA supplementation is a “must”.

** The (then) 65yo took DHEA by itself until 2014, so it is safe to say that the extra heartbeats were stopped by the DHEA, and not by something else.
He started adding vitamins and other supplements in 2014 and now (2022) takes 5000iu of Vitamin D, 2 grams of Vitamin C, 1 mg of Vitamin B9, a multivitamin, 200 mg of Magnesium Threonate, Fish oil, Primrose oil, 50 mg of Progesterone, 2 g of L-arginine and 10 mg of Melatonin.
He exercises in a gym and maintains a BMI of 25.5 – to – 26 (5′, 10 1/2″, 169 pounds).

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Maintaining DHEA keeps function normal.
As the DHEA supply Falls, something is bound to go haywire; but supplemental DHEA will maintain youthful levels, allowing ongoing normal function of all parts of the body.
Note that of course, production of each and all of the other hormones falls as we age, so for best results, you should assess all your hormones individually and supplement each one as necessary.
Note also that age-related hormone loss is irreversible, so that ongoing, lifetime supplementation is necessary: although the age at which supplementation becomes necessary varies, 100% of humans will benefit from supplementation, beginning when the serum level falls below 6 µmol per litre.

REFERENCES

Campbell B (2020) DHEAS and Human Development: An Evolutionary Perspective.
Frontiers in Endocrinology | http://www.frontiersin.org 1 March 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 101Front. Endocrinol. 11:101, doi: 10.3389/fendo.2020.00101
campbelb@uwm.edu


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