DHEA may be helpful for weight loss, libido

Nutritional supplements can be a confusing subject.Expert opinions vary widely and are often in opposition.Even when a consumer finds an expert they find believable, the topic can be confusing due to difficult chemical names and medical terms.

This week’s column focuses on a supplement that could potentially be beneficial for a large number of readers.I will try to lay out the facts in a way that they can be easily understood.The supplement is DHEA.DHEA stands for dehydroepiandrosterone.

This is a chemical that is naturally produced in your body.DHEA is a chemical from which estrogen and testosterone are made.As you age, your body produces less DHEA.DHEA plays such a prominent role in so many body functions that decline with age that it has been called an anti-aging supplement.DHEA is made from cholesterol, and the hormones estrogen and testosterone are made from DHEA.

For many patients that have low levels of these two hormones, supplementing DHEA may be helpful. However, there are many other factors that play a role in the synthesis of hormones, so it is not guaranteed that taking DHEA will boost your estrogen or testosterone levels. It is also possible that supplementing DHEA will lead to abnormal excess estrogen in men or testosterone in women. DHEA has been claimed to benefit a wide range of human functions.There are numerous studies that suggest a positive role for various functional illnesses.

Scientific research is very expensive and takes time.DHEA is a naturally occurring chemical and therefore cannot be patented, so no company stands to make a huge profit on it, compared to a drug such as Lipitor.For this reason, don’t expect any large scale, gold standard drug tests to confirm its role.This type of testing will never happen for supplements.In spite of this handicap in research opportunities, DHEA is promising enough that small significant studies are being done.

According to the Mayo Clinic, DHEA has “good” evidence to play a beneficial role in these conditions:

Adrenal insufficiency



Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)


The Mayo Clinic reports that studies have been done that may indicate a role for DHEA in the following disorders, but further studies are necessary to conclude positively that the benefits are clear:• Alzheimer’s disease• Osteoporosis• Heart disease• Cervical Cancer• Chronic fatigue syndrome• Infertility• Menopause symptoms• Male sexual function, libido, erection Sources that do recommend supplementation of DHEA vary widely with regard to the suggested dosages, from 5 mg to 200 mg or more.A common recommendation is 25 mg daily.

Supplements widely available in pharmacies and health food stores often contain 10 mg or 25 mg per capsule.In addition to the supplements marketed as containing DHEA itself, some supplements containing wild yam are marketed that claim to be a source of DHEA.While DHEA can be synthesized in a laboratory from wild yam, it has been reported that the body cannot carry out this chemical transformation.Based upon this information, taking DHEA supplements from a reliable supplier is a more reliable way to obtain the DHEA than by hoping your body will make it from wild yam.Quality of supplements varies widely among products available in retail stores.Several consumer research projects have found that supplements may be diluted, contaminated, overstated or sometimes not even present in products available on store shelves.

For this reason, I always recommend that consumers stick with a reliable, trusted band when trying supplements.I have encountered patients that have tried one brand of supplement and reported no benefit, only to find that a different brand had a substantial benefit.Unfortunately, when trying to choose nutritional supplements that are beneficial, trial and error are often involved.There are some known risks to taking excessive DHEA as with almost any other product available.You really should seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional before trying this or any other supplement that may affect your health.