Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is one of the most abundant hormones in the human body and serves as a precursor to several other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.
One of the primary functions of DHEA is to support the production of sex hormones in both men and women. DHEA is converted into testosterone in men and estrogen in women, which can help maintain healthy sexual function and fertility.
DHEA levels in the body peak in the mid-20s and decline with age. DHEA levels seem to go down also in people with depression, and after menopause.
Research has suggested that DHEA may have a role in improving age-related decline in cognitive function. A study found that supplementation with DHEA improved visual-spatial memory and attention in healthy older adults.
Another study found that DHEA supplementation improved executive function and working memory in women with adrenal insufficiency.
In addition to its potential cognitive benefits, DHEA has also been studied for its potential anti-aging effects. Some research suggests that DHEA may help improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, and increase collagen production. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that DHEA improved skin hydration and decreased the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in postmenopausal women.
Treatment with high doses of exogenous DHEA has been shown to have beneficial effects on lowering body fat and in modulating the effects of diabetes, atherosclerosis, and obesity in rodent models.
DHEA has also been studied for its potential role in improving bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that DHEA supplementation improved bone density, decreasing the risk of fracture in women with low bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.