The blood level of DHEA in old age is 10 % or less of that at age 20. Restoring DHEA promotes normal function in all parts of the body.
THE MOTHER OF TESTOSTERONE
The letters “DHEA” are an acronym for DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE. This is the hormone which is produced in greatest quantity by the youthful human body. In smaller animals, the hormone is produced entirely in the brain and blood levels tend to be very low. The brains of humans and the Primates also make DHEA, but in addition the adrenal glands process cholesterol into Pregnenolone.
From Pregnenolone, they make DHEA in such large amounts in youth, that weight-for-weight, it exceeds the aggregate of all the other hormones.
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 age 8, to 13 or so, at which point both males and females begin to maximise DHEA production. For details re. this aspect, see the website,
“YOU and YOUR HORMONES“.
DHEAS (the water-soluble, Sulfated form) circulates in the blood stream. It is absorbed by all cells in the body and is converted instantly into DHEA (the fat-soluble form), which is then used to produce such hormones and hormone byproducts as each particular cell needs for efficient function.
This intracellular process has been termed “Intracrine hormonogenesis” by Dr. Fernand Labrie, then Professor of Endocrinology at the University of Laval, now deceased.
Inside the cells, the DHEA molecule is modified by a family of “3 beta hydroxy-steroid dehydrogenase” enzymes, producing dozens of different “micro-hormones”.
From those, further modifications are made, so that within each cell, a specialised hormone mix is produced, to facilitate the function of that cell type.
This is part of the reason why your fingers make fingernails, while special cells in your bones make blood, et cetera.
Beginning at age 25-30 in females and 30-35 (or earlier) in males, DHEA production falls by approximately 1-3% per annum.
So by age 80 the blood contains mainly intracerebrally-produced DHEA, with hardly any output from the Adrenals.
The blood level in old age is 10 % or less of that at age 20.
As with everything else in nature, there is a “spread”, Bell-curve-wise, of DHEA levels in youth.
The disparity between the highest and lowest rate of synthesis is maintained throughout life. Therefore those with the lowest production early on tend towards zero production in old age.
A few people’s DHEA production is low even in the teenage years and “80-year-old” serum concentrations can sometimes be seen in the second decade.
Thus a deficiency in production of DHEA can be found at any age.
This deficiency can cause inefficiency of hormonal function anywhere, including the central nervous system and the “immune system”.
Because of this, the clinical manifestations of DHEA deficiency vary from person to person, depending on which organ is most sensitive to low DHEA. Therefore the symptoms are highly variable, the commonest being from low Testosterone.
This is not a surprising finding, given the multiplicity of functions which Testosterone subserves.
The subject of DHEA is a bone of contention in the medical community.
There are 3 “teams”: enthusiastic people who think that everybody should supplement their DHEA so as to slow down aging, researchers who mostly agree and a group of naysayers and doomsayers, whose objections are mainly “What If?”, “Perhaps” and “We don’t know, so we can’t recommend it”, as the Mayo Clinic says.
It is important to note that although DHEA is “OTC” in the USA, no life-threatening complication has been reported.
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.
The bottom line of all this is that without a good supply of DHEA, something is bound to go haywire.
And the corollary is, restoring your DHEA and maintaining it at youthful levels promotes ongoing normal function in all parts of the body, not just the obvious parts in which function depends on testosterone.
ABOUT DHEA AND DEPRESSION
DHEA helps depression and has been observed to have this effect in teenagers, people in their 20s and older folks too.
In my opinion this is a multifaceted function: taking DHEA, the raw material for a range of essential hormones, tends to “fix everything”, just as Thyroid Hormone 3 “energises everything”.
If you look at it from the right angle, you can “see” the reasons for many of its actions …….
– It helps hair loss and brittle fingernails (my earliest success with DHEA), in an interestingly complicated way: it helps the thyroid out by reducing Cortisol.
Cortisol causes conversion of T4 to (inactive) reverse T3 and conversion of T3 to (inactive) T2: in this way, Cortisol “short-circuits” thyroid hormone and causes whole-body slowdown.
When the entire body slows, the hair follicles drop their hairs out (you’ll see folks with the outer 1/3 of their eyebrows gone), the skin gets dry, the voice gets hoarse, the muscles ache, and constipation becomes the word of the day. all of these symptoms improve when DHEA is restored; people don’t go back to 100% normal unless the thyroid hormone is restored too, but they improve a lot with DHEA alone.
See ” METABOLIC (“FUNCTIONAL”) HYPOTHYROIDISM, perhaps better termed
“INTRACELLULAR HYPOTHYROIDISM“, in the page on Thyroid Hormones.
– DHEA helps in Lupus and HIV because it supports the immune system.
– In female sexual dysfunction, it helps by raising the Testosterone level.
– In male sexual dysfunction it helps by raising the Estrogen level.
SO, In depression, DHEA:
– Improves Testosterone availability (more self confidence = less percieived stress = less anxiety = reduced rumination and reduced focus on troubles and worries),
– 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, which is the real reason for depressive states of all kinds.
Low DHEA is a part of the circle of despair which is, or which generates, depression.
Low DHEA is a part of life …… the 18YOld 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.
If supplementation stops, the low-DHEA symptoms recur within 3-4 months (Observation, from my 606 cases).
ABOUT DHEA AND YOUR BRAIN
The brain makes DHEA and uses it to manufacture Pregnenolone, Progesterone, Allopregnanolone and Testosterone, but it is unable to make as much as it needs.
Supplementing with DHEA therefore improves the brain functions of those “downstream” hormones, providing enhanced self-confidence, increasing cognitive speed, improving sleep, facilitating brain cell maintenance, juicing up memory and ensuring equanimity.
These improvements can be observed in everyone whose serum DHEA is less than 5 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 seen.
ABOUT DHEA AND CANCER
A recent article explains how DHEA prevents cancer 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/
ABOUT DHEA AND YOUR HEART
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 both to take DHEA.
The 65YOld did, the 66YOld didn’t.
The 66YOld progressed to fibrillation in 2009 and had a “defibrillation” (electric shocks to his heart} to reset normal 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 got stents put into three of his heart arteries for blockage and eventually, needed a quadruple heart-artery bypass, in 2020.
Now aged 83, he says that he is doing well. That sounds great, but let’s compare his experience with that of the 65YOld…..
The 65YOld 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 continued taking 50mg ever since.*
In March of 2000 he had a brief runny nose, then “Covid toes”, and later on had a combination of super-itchy rash, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat.
The symptoms seemed to improve slowly and he figured that 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 82YOld’s heart is perfect, with no evidence of disease in the arteries or any other abnormality.
So, at least based on these two cases, Restoring DHEA to more youthful levels through supplementation can protect the the heart from major cardiovascular risk factors which lead to problems from heart artery blockage.
In my opinion, keeping your DHEA supply close to “25YOld normal” is the best thing you can do for your body: 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 VitD, 5000iu, VitC, 2g, Vit B9, 1 mg, a multivite, 1 daily, Magnesium BisGlycinate, 200 mg, Fish oil , Primrose oil , Progesterone, 50 mg and Melatonin, 10mg.
He exercises in a gym and maintains a BMI of 25.5 – to – 26.