DHEA, a pretty common supplement with an even more common question…how much should you take?
Not a lot of people are aware that DHEA can easily increase estrogen, so what dose is best to minimize the increase in estrogen?
First, what happens to DHEA in the body?
When DHEA is taken orally, it’s handled by the liver, where it increases DHEA, DHEA-sulfate (S; the storage form of DHEA), androstenedione and DHT levels in the body.
The oxygenated derivatives of DHEA, namely 7α- and 7β-hydroxy-DHEA, also have a lot of benefits as they positively affect memory and cognitive functions, rheumatologic arthritis, colitis, thermogenesis, the immune response and autoimmune diseases (R).
DHEA can be truly amazing and is an essential hormone to have for well-being, health and graceful aging.
DHEA and especially its storage form, DHEA-S, is inversely correlated with insulin resistance, fat mass and many metabolic diseases or conditions.
Let’s look at a few studies with supplemental DHEA.
Supplementing 400mg of DHEA only once increased DHEA 6 fold, DHEA-S 12 fold, DHT 15 fold, whereas estrone, estradiol, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) were unchanged (R).
Continual supplementation of 1600mg for 4 weeks increased DHEA by 15 fold, DHEA-S and DHT 20 fold and estradiol and estrone 2 fold. LH and FSH didn’t change which indicates that even a massive dose of 1600mg for a month caused no suppression (R).
But what can you expect from lower oral doses?
- 100mg supplemental DHEA for 4 weeks in young men increased DHEA a little more than twice the normal range (from 12ng/ml to 28ng/ml), DHEA-S from 2.53 to 6.68mg/L, androstenedione from 3.63 to 7.03ng/ml, testosterone from 6.61 to 7.26ng/ml, DHT from 575.8 to 1233.8pg/ml and estrone from 77.1pg/ml to 174.1 (R). Estradiol wasn’t measured by I’m sure it went up a very small amount because testosterone increased only a little.
- 100mg DHEA for 4 weeks in young athletes increased total testosterone from 18.2 to 25.4nM, estradiol from 245.5 to 312.9pM and DHEA-S from 3.5 to 10.4uM (R).
- 150mg DHEA daily for 8 weeks in combination of exercise did not affect serum testosterone or estrogen (estrone or estradiol) concentrations even though it increased androstenedione significantly (R).
I’d say 100mg is not necessary for younger people as they already have mid to high levels of DHEA, plus DHEA doesn’t boost fat loss or muscle growth and strength any more than the placebo group. Smaller doses of 10mg daily would be good enough to keep DHEA in the top range for someone with already high DHEA, and 25mg would be best for someone with mid-range DHEA. It’s also best to eat aromatase inhibiting foods or use natural aromatase inhibitors to block DHEA from increasing estrogen (list at the end of the post).
- Middle-aged Japanese males that received 25 mg of DHEA daily for 2 weeks increase DHEA from 19.6 to 31.8nmol/L, DHEA-S from 6.6 to 11.7μmol/L and estradiol 100 to 127pmol/L, a significant 27% elevation (R).
- Even 10mg was effective at increasing DHEA, DHEA, androstenedione, progesterone, allopregnanolone, β-endorphins, but also estradiol after 12 months (R).
- 25mg for 1 year altered (R):
- DHEA (2.29 to 5.52ng/ml)
- DHEAS (0.53 to 1.68mg/ml)
- Androstenedione (0.81 to 1.51ng/ml)
- Total testosterone (2.20 to 3.61ng/ml),
- free testosterone (18.08 to 41.55pg/ml) and
- DHT (29.66 to 56.33pg/ml)
- Progesterone (0.23 to 0.59ng/ml)
- 17-hydroxyprogesterone levels (0.58 to 0.89ng/ml)
- Allopregnanolone (163.8 to 269.8pg/ml)
- SHBG (17.0 to 14.94ng/ml)
- Estrone (34.17 to 70.5pg/ml)
- Estradiol levels (18.67 to 43.5pg/ml)
- GH (0.60 to 0.93ng/ml)
- IGF-1 (70.95 to 110.57ng/ml)
- β-endorphins (10.3 to 18.1pg/ml)
- 50mg DHEA for a year in elderly men didn’t affect testosterone levels or estradiol (remained at 30pg/ml), but restored DHEA to pubertal levels.
- 100mg DHEA for 6 months in the elderly didn’t affect cortisol levels but increased DHEA and the DHEA:cortisol ratio (10:1) back to normal (pubertal levels) (R, R).
- 100 mg daily dose of DHEA in elderly restored serum DHEA levels to those of young adults and serum DS to levels at or slightly above the young adult range after 6 months and no difference in DHT (R).
Elderly people can benefit from fairly high doses of DHEA, such as 50-100mg ,which will take DHEA to youthful levels. 100mg with do it faster than 50mg if rapid repletion is desired. As the enzyme aromatase, which creates estrone and estradiol from androstenedione and testosterone, respectively, increases with age, it would be a good idea to focus on supplementing aromatase inhibitors or eat healthy foods that will keep estrogen low which taking DHEA.
Even if you take only 25mg or less daily, it would still be a good idea to keep on eye on estrone and estradiol levels.
Oral doses achieve only 3% that of subcutaneous injections and 33% that of topical, however DHEA transformation to DHEA-S in the liver after oral use seems responsible for the longer half-life and better pharmacokinetic profile compared to intravenous or transdermal formulations.
1) 50mg topical DHEA for 5 days on the abdomen increased DHEA from 13.04 to 19.93nmol/L, DHEA-S from 4.55 to 5.82umol/L, androstenedione 2.94 to 5.33nmol/L, testosterone 13.48 to 14.41nmol/L, estradiol from 0.109 to 0.187nmol/L and LH 2.39 to 4.07 (R).
After 5 days the researches continued to monitor what happened to those hormones when no DHEA was given for up to 5 weeks.
To write it a little more clearly, after 5 weeks DHEA and LH dropped below baseline, DHEA-S returned to almost normal and androstenedione, testosterone and estradiol shot up.
Moral of the story…don’t put DHEA where you have a lot of fat as fat tissue highly expresses the aromatase.
The good news is that, even after 5 days of application, DHEA can have an effect 5 weeks later, which indicates that DHEA and its metabolites are stored for long term use, probably in the form of saturated fatty esters.
2) Topical DHEA for 14 days as a 20% solution (10ml DHEA, 50% ethanol and 50% propylene glycol) increased:
- DHEA by 175%,
- DHEA-S by 90%,
- DHEA fatty acid ester by 200%
- Androstenediol (5-diol) by 120%
- Androstenedione by 80%
- Testosterone and DHT by 0%
- Androsterone glucuronide by 75% (breakdown metabolite)
- Androstane-3 alpha,17 beta-diol-G (3α-diol-G) by 50%
- Androstane-3 beta,17 beta-diol-G (3β-diol-G) by 75%
- Androsterone-sulfate by 115% (storage form)
- Estrone (E1) or estradiol (E2) by 0%
- E1-sulfate and E2-sulfate by 20%
From the info above, the esterified metabolites of DHT appear as reliable markers of the total androgen pool, because they directly reflect the intracrine formation of androgens in the tissues possessing the steroidogenic enzymes required to transform the inactive precursors DHEA and DHEA-S into DHT (R).
DHEA is an amazing hormone and supplementation can help raise a whole lot of other beneficial hormones additional to DHEA.
If rapid DHEA repletion is desired, 100mg daily for 4 weeks is a good start. If such high doses are going to be used, I would highly recommend using an aromatase inhibitor with it. Once normal DHEA levels have been reached, taper off to 10mg daily to maintain the next high levels.