Dehydroepiandrosterone Risks

by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert

Ben Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert Sports and Exercise Nutrition Level 2 Strength and Conditioning CoachWritten by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body, but it is also available as a supplement.

While some people use DHEA to improve their health and well-being, it's important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects associated with its use.

This article explores the potential dangers of DHEA and what you should know before taking it.

What is DHEA?

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands. It is a precursor to both testosterone and estrogen, and is involved in the production of these hormones in the body.

DHEA levels naturally decline as we age, and some people use DHEA supplements to try to counteract this decline and improve their overall health and well-being.

However, there are potential risks and side effects associated with DHEA use, and it's important to be aware of these before taking it.

DHEA supplements may cause adverse side effects in some individuals, particularly those suffering from bipolar disorder or depression. Furthermore, they can make hormone-sensitive conditions such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis worse.

Potential benefits of DHEA use.

While there are potential risks and dangers associated with DHEA use, there are also some potential benefits.

Some studies have suggested that DHEA supplementation may improve bone density, cognitive function, and muscle strength.

It may also have anti-aging effects and improve overall well-being. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of DHEA use.

DHEA proved its effectiveness in one study of 10 young men by increasing REM sleep associated with memory formation. More clinical research will need to be completed on how DHEA may impact sleeping patterns among other populations.

It's important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Potential side effects of DHEA use.

While DHEA supplementation may have potential benefits, it's important to understand the potential side effects and health risks associated with its use.

Some common side effects include acne, hair loss, and changes in menstrual cycle. It may also increase the risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer

DHEA can interact with certain medications, such as insulin and corticosteroids, and may worsen certain health conditions, such as liver disease and bipolar disorder.

It's important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or are taking any medications.

Mood Changes

Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is an adrenal gland-produced natural hormone. DHEA aids your body's production of other hormones like testosterone and estrogen.

Peak DHEA levels typically peak early adulthood before slowly decreasing with age. DHEA can be purchased as a nutritional supplement in pill, capsule, powder, topical cream or gel form.

People typically take it to treat anti-aging therapy symptoms associated with menopause as well as to enhance mood and physical performance.

DHEA should only be taken under medical advice and in dosages below those recommended, in order to avoid potentially hazardous side effects that include manic episodes in people living with bipolar disorder, aggression and uninhibited behavior.

For best results it should only ever be administered at lower than recommended dosage levels. Too much DHEA can increase your risk of heart problems, particularly if you already have high cholesterol or an issue that affects blood supply to the heart (ischemic heart disease).


Weight Gain

DHEA is a natural hormone, and can be safely taken by adults at doses up to 50 mg daily for over a year without adverse side effects. 

Consuming too much or taking it too frequently can result in adverse side effects, including increased sweating and body odor, changes to hair growth (hirsutism), fatigue and mood fluctuations.

DHEA also stimulates adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline, two stress-fighting hormones.

Too much cortisol or adrenaline in your system may result in adrenal fatigue - feelings of exhaustion as well as difficulty maintaining healthy weight management.

Dhea may help enhance the body's ability to use energy effectively, shuttle glucose into cells, and lower insulin levels - making weight management simpler for many.

Furthermore, lean muscle mass formation may even increase resting calorie burn. As we age our production of DHEA decreases and supplements may be necessary in order to keep levels optimally high.

Furthermore, those who suffer from hormone-sensitive conditions like ovarian, breast, prostate or thyroid disease should avoid it.

Individuals breastfeeding or planning on becoming pregnant should not take DHEA as it could alter pregnancy outcomes; those who have low tolerance levels or other health concerns should consult their physician prior to taking any DHEA.

Hair Loss

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, is a hormone produced naturally by the body as well as being available as an over-the-counter supplement.

DHEA helps increase levels of certain hormones that decline with age; older adults often use DHEA treatment to address conditions like aging skin, depression, infertility, muscle strength loss and heart disease as well as erectile dysfunction (ED).

Unfortunately, too much DHEA can have negative side-effects when taken in excess. DHEA may lead to "androgenic" effects in men; such as loss of scalp hair, increased facial hair growth, deepened voice depth or armpit or pubic hair growth.

Who should avoid DHEA use?

DHEA use should be avoided by individuals who have a history of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast or prostate cancer.

It should also be avoided by pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as individuals with liver disease, bipolar disorder, or other mental health conditions.

Additionally, DHEA can interact with certain medications, so it's important to talk to a medical professional before use.


DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an adrenal gland hormone.

People who take DHEA supplements in capsule form claim it can help fight signs of aging while improving mood, muscle strength and insulin receptivity; however, most research doesn't back this claim up.

On the other hand it can cause some unwanted side effects such as weight gain, acne, and hair loss