DHEA: Multitask longevity hormone
DHEA is a steroid hormone secreted by our adrenal glands and it is the precursor of sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen). The blood level of DHEA (in its sulphated form DHEA-S) increases gradually up to the age of 20, then decreases with age, which earned it the nickname “longevity hormone”. For its possible effects against aging, menopausal symptoms, muscle wasting, obesity… DHEA has been extensively studied. Research is currently focusing on its anti-aging effect, with sometimes contradictory results.
DHEA, the miracle anti-aging pill?
The effects of DHEA are very diverse and, because of its excessive media coverage, it is often described as an anti-aging pill that would extend our lifespan. In fact, it seems that it contributes to cardiovascular, bone, hormonal, neuronal and skin health, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the population affected, the dose and the duration of supplementation. It is therefore an interesting hormone in age-related pathologies, but no study has shown that it can extend the life span.
An unprecedented study was conducted under the name DHEAge to estimate the benefits of DHEA supplementation in individuals over 60 years of age (men and women combined). It has been shown to improve bone density, skin quality and libido, with a slight increase in sex hormones, especially in women. It also appears that DHEA is beneficial for the maintenance of muscle mass and, indeed, the fight against sarcopenia in the elderly. These effects could be related to the regulation of IGF-1, a growth hormone that regulates muscle gain and bone mass.
On the other hand, DHEA supplementation seems interesting in the fight against diabetes. Indeed, a research team concluded that insulin and pro-inflammatory molecules decreased after 6 months of treatment. Moreover, this effect in overweight people is accompanied by a loss of visceral fat. In neurological diseases, although it does not have a specific receptor, DHEA has an effect on NMDA and GABA, two central neurotransmitters[7, 8]. This interaction, in addition to DHEA’s ability to regulate hormone levels, may explain its role in memory, depression and learning. In cardiovascular diseases, our miracle molecule also seems to have a role, via the regulation of eNOS (an enzyme allowing the synthesis of NO, a powerful vasodilator) and inflammation.
Is DHEA the real longevity cure?
All these studies should be approached with caution because for every study indicating a beneficial effect of DHEA, another one states the opposite. This disparity is probably due to different study designs, non-comparable treatment times and varying doses. It should also be noted that there are no long-term studies to assess the long-term effects of DHEA supplementation. It also appears that the mechanisms of action underlying DHEA intake are not well known. Unfortunately, due to the lack of interest by pharmaceutical companies for a natural molecule, which they cannot patent, little research is funded and these mechanisms are still far from being elucidated.
- Number of publications: over 1000
- Availability : on prescription in France / over the counter in other countries
- Route: oral or intravenous
- Dosage: 25 mg / day maximum in women, 50 mg / day maximum in men
DHEA does not appear to have long-term side effects, as long as the dosage is respected. In general, it is advisable not to self-medicate and to regularly monitor your DHEA-S blood levels to avoid overdosing.
It is strongly discouraged to take DHEA if you are taking another hormonal treatment (fertility, thyroid, andropause, menopause…). Similarly, if you have a history of breast, uterine, ovarian or prostate cancer, it is not recommended that you consider treatment with DHEA. It has been shown that high levels of DHEA are associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
 Samaras N, Samaras D, Frangos E, Forster A, Philippe J. A Review of Age-Related Dehydroepiandrosterone Decline and Its Association with Well-Known Geriatric Syndromes: Is Treatment Beneficial? Rejuvenation Research. 2013;16(4):285-294
 Baulieu E-E, Thomas G, Legrain S, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate, and aging: Contribution of the DHEAge Study to a sociobiomedical issue. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2000;97(8):4279-4284
 Valenti G, Denti L, Maggio M, Ceda G, Volpato S, Bandinelli S, Ceresini G, Cappola A, Guralnik JM, Ferrucci L, Effect of DHEAS on skeletal muscle over the life span: the InCHIANTI study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004;59(5):466-72
 Morales AJ, Haubrich RH, Hwang JY, Asakura H, Yen SS, The effect of six months treatment with a 100 mg daily dose of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on circulating sex steroids, body composition and muscle strength in age-advanced men and women. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1998;49(4):421-32
 Weiss EP, Villareal DT, Fontana L, Han D-H, Holloszy JO. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) replacement decreases insulin resistance and lowers inflammatory cytokines in aging humans. Aging (Albany NY). 2011;3(5):533-542
 Villareal DT, Holloszy JO, Effect of DHEA on abdominal fat and insulin action in elderly women and men: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2004;292(18):2243-8
 M.D. Majewska, Neuronal actions of dehydroepiandrosterone: possible roles in brain development, aging, memory, and affect, Ann. NY Acad. Sci., 1995;774:111-120
 R. Bergeron, C. de Montigny, G. Debonnel, Potentiation of neuronal NMDA response induced by dehydroepiandrosterone and its suppression by progesterone: effects mediated by sigma receptors,J. Neurosci., 1996;16:1193-1202
 Racchi M, Balduzzi C, Corsini E. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and the aging brain: flipping a coin in the “fountain of youth”. CNS Drug Rev. 2003;9(1):21-40
 Simoncini T, Mannella P, Fornari L, Varone G, Caruso A, Genazzani AR, Dehydroepiandrosterone modulates endothelial nitric oxide synthesis via direct genomic and nongenomic mechanisms. Endocrinology. 2003;144(8):3449-55
 Kaaks R, Berrino F, et al. Serum sex steroids in premenopausal women and breast cancer risk within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005;97(10):755-65
Dr. Marion Tible
Marion Tible has a PhD in cellular biology and physiopathology. Formerly a researcher in thematics varying from cardiology to neurodegenerative diseases, she is now part of Long Long Life team and is involved in scientific writing and anti-aging research.
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Marion Tible est docteur en biologie cellulaire et physiopathologie. Ancienne chercheuse dans des thématiques oscillant de la cardiologie aux maladies neurodégénératives, elle est aujourd’hui impliquée au sein de Long Long Life pour la rédaction scientifique et la recherche contre le vieillissement.
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