DHEA is short for dehydroepiandrosterone. DHEA is a naturally occurring pro-hormone, a base precursor for hormones the body produces like estrogen and testosterone.  DHEA is made and processed in the adrenal glands, gonads and the skin. Hormones drive our energy, mood, muscle tone, fat, sleep, mental sharpness, immune system, sex drive, cardiovascular health and more. After age 35 DHEA should be taken as a daily supplement; but DHEA should be used as a cream, not a pill.

Humans gradually produce more and more DHEA each year from birth to about age 25. Then after age 25 men and women alike make about 2% less each year thereafter.

So, by age 35 people produce about 20% less of this important hormone precursor than when we were “in our prime” or “at our best”; and by age 50 the body makes only half as much DHEA. This gradual decline continues, so by age 65 levels are only 10-20% of optimum; and by age 75-80 DHEA levels drop to just 5% of levels we produced at age 25. [1][2][3]

Medical research studies clearly show that much of that processing actually happens in the skin, the dermis, the largest organ of the body.[1] DHEA taken as a pill supplement is eliminated by the first pass effect of the liver.  So, very little DHEA taken as an oral DHEA supplement actually provides any benefit, and only increases the level of DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) rather than free DHEA.

[1] Kalimi M, Regelson W, eds. The Biologic Role of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1990.

[2] Bellino FL, Daynes RA, Hornsby PJ, Lavin DH, Nestler JE, eds. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and Aging. Vol 774. New York: NY Academy of Science; 1995.

[3] Savineau JP, Marthan R, Dumas de la Roque E. Role of DHEA in cardiovascular diseases. Biochemical Pharmacology. Mar 2015;85(6): pp 718-26 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23270992

[4] Labrie F, Belanger A, Belanger P, Berube R, Martel C, Cusan L, Gomez J, Candas B, et al. Metabolism of DHEA in Postmenopausal women following percutaneous administration. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, 103 (2007) pp 178-188 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17084625