Dhea is an acronym for the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, which, along with human growth hormone, are the most abundant, important and powerful hormones in the human body. Dhea is the most abundant of the more than 150 hormones produced by the adrenal gland. DHEA is so powerful that many consider it to be one of the most effective anti-aging supplements ever discovered.

It is important to make a distinction from the very start between general “anti-aging” qualities and “life-extension” qualities. Anti-aging is anything that makes you look and feel younger than your biological age. It can reduce and delay the incidence of disease, increase energy, reduce wrinkles and depression, etc.

On the other hand, life-extension actually prolongs the number of years you can live – it increases your lifespan. Dhea, despite its incredible anti-aging qualities, has not been shown to extend lifespan, unlike supplements like melatonin, which I will discuss in another article. But it is vital in maintaining youthful vigor while you are alive.

The discovery of dhea as a powerful aid to human health took place decades ago, making it one of the pioneer anti-aging supplements. I have been taking it for about 8-9 years already and I’m only 47. Gradual and carefully controlled supplementation beginning at about age 30 is not unwarranted, but initial doses should be generally quite low as the body still produces most of what it needs at that age.

However, after age 40, the body’s natural production of dhea begins to decline rapidly. By age 45 – 50, your body only produces about 1/2 of what it did when you were 24! And by the time we are 65 – 70, our bodies only produce about 15% – 20% of what it did before. Why do you think you’re feeling so tired and depressed compared to when you were 24? The loss of dhea is one main reason. There are others I will discuss in other articles, for example, pregnenolone, in the health and hormone section of this website.

Dhea is a substance that helps us maintain youthful energy, retain and increase lean muscle mass, lose weight or gain it as needed, boost the immune system against bacteria and viruses by increases the production of interleukin-2, prevent cancer, loss of bone mass and brain function, hardening of the arteries and heart disease, crohn’s disease, erectile dysfunction, systemic lupus erythematosus (it helps in easing the symptoms of lupus such as skin inflammation and joint pains), kidney and addison’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, diabetes and alzheimer’s, and helps combat aids and other infectious diseases.

There are probably very few diseases extra dhea would not improve. It helps perform one of the most important functions of the human body: DNA replication. This helps prevent the aging and disease processes.

It has been suggested, for example, that the supplement ginseng strengthens the immune system because it decreases the cortisol to dhea ratio. Cortisol is the hormone your body creates and releases during times of stress, and as we age, our cortisol to dhea ratio naturally increases.

Dhea is a “parent hormone” (pregnenolone is called the “mother” hormone because it is derived from cholesterol and produces dhea, so don’t listen to the medical pundits who tell you that all cholesterol is bad for you. It isn’t), produced by glands near the kidneys. It is changed in the body to a hormone called androstenedione. Androstenedione is then changed into the major male and female hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.

Dhea can be made in the laboratory from chemicals found in wild yam, extracts of barbasco root and soy, but the human body cannot make dhea from these chemicals. So simply eating wild yam or soy will not increase dhea levels. You need to supplement with high quality pills or capsules.

Dhea is a naturally occurring hormone in the body produced by the adrenal glands. One of  Dhea’s main jobs is to make other hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. During a person’s twenties, the production of dhea reaches peak levels and slowly declines thereafter. A decrease in dhea production can result in muscle and bone loss, decreased strength and mood, and decreased sex drive.

In fact, dhea converts into about 50 different hormones! This makes it a vital hormone for women as well as men, although women have about 25% less than men and must take smaller supplemental doses as they age.