DHEA Consumer Education
While hundreds of studies have demonstrated that DHEA is a safe and effective metabolic modifier, well-controlled scientific studies are one thing, and unbridled use by the American public (motto: if a little is good, a lot is better) is something altogether different.
DHEA is a powerful hormone. It’s not like vitamin C, which is easily excreted in the urine. If you take too much DHEA, you can experience adverse effects. That’s because the body converts some DHEA to testosterone and estrogen. Thus one must be careful—something that is rather difficult to get across in a health food store when the product is right next to the organic corn chips. I spelled out the appropriate cautions quite clearly in DHEA Breakthrough, but still received reports of overdose symptoms, such as acne, even in people who were taking a reasonable (25 to 50 mg) dose.
Some people should not take DHEA. These include:
- People under age 30 (unless following the advice of their physician). In general, young people are already producing adequate DHEA. Since the hormone can be converted to testosterone and estrogen, taking DHEA can produce symptoms associated with excess sex hormones such as acne and (in women) facial hair growth from elevated testosterone.
- Men being treated for prostate cancer. A common medical treatment for prostate cancer is testosterone blockade, in which all sources of testosterone are suppressed. Taking DHEA in this case would be counterproductive.
- Women being treated for breast cancer. A common medical treatment for breast cancer is estrogen blockade, with drugs like Tamoxifen™. Thus DHEA would also be counterproductive.
- Easy Does It. We live in an instant results society. The benefits of DHEA, however, tend to be experienced gradually as tissue levels are optimized. Unfortunately, the hype surrounding DHEA has set up an expectation that you can take it and instantly feel 20 years younger. When this doesn’t occur, people often assume they need to take more. Remember that the human body, even at age 25, produces only 40 to 70 mg of DHEA per day. A sensible replacement dose therefore should stay within that level, and research suggests that 10 to 50 mg of DHEA will be sufficient for most people.[i]
- No Place for Guesswork. If you are scheduled for a routine blood test- normally part of an annual physical exam, tell (do not ask) your doctor to include a DHEA sulfate (DHEAS) level. Knowing how much DHEA you are producing (baseline) helps to determine the appropriate supplemental dose. If you are not having blood work, we suggest starting on a low dose: 10 to 25 mg upon arising and before bed. Three to 6 months later, you can retest in order to find your DHEA status in the supplemented state. If still below the optimum range, you’ll know that there’s room to increase your DHEA.
NOTE: If you are taking DHEA, and want to know your DHEA status, you should TAKE your evening dose, SKIP your morning dose, and have your blood drawn before noon.
Natalie Note: Normal vs Optimum.
In my entire medical career, I have only seen three patients who were not in the normal range for DHEAS. That’s because the labs’ reference range is likely to go from 50 to 520. You don’t have to be a clinical chemist to see that this is absurd. How is it possible for one person to be normal with a DHEAS level of 50, while another person of the same age is normal at ten times that amount? What’s going on?
First, let’s understand that a reference range is determined by the amounts that are common in a reference group of people the same age. Since people vary widely in the amount of DHEA they produce, the “normal” range for this critical biomarker is enormous, and also meaningless. Consider that the “normal” range for Stephen (at age 70) is – and I am not making this up: 0 to 276 mcg/dL. That’s right. The low end of the “normal” range is ZERO, simply because there are 70 year-olds with no measurable DHEA in their blood.
What you really want to know is this: what is optimum? Fortunately, this can be calculated by studying published medical literature, which Stephen has been doing for more than 30 years. He is also, I believe, the oldest American scientist who has been consistently supplementing with DHEA for more than 30 years. We are thus confident in saying that the optimum DHEAS range for women is 200 to 350 mcg/dL and for men: 350 to 500 mcg/dL.
In Canada, that converts to: 12.07 umol/L to 14.49 umol/L for women, and 16.50 umol/L to 24.15 umol/L for men.
Conversion tables at: http://www.endmemo.com/medical/unitconvert/Lead.php
[i] P.R. Casson, A. Morales and J.E. Buster. The use and effects of DHEA in humans. in: DHEA: A Comprehensive Review. J.H.H. Thijssen and H. Nieuwenhuyse (eds.) New York, Parthenon, 1999. Pg 127-152.