Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) also known as androstenolone or prasterone is an endogenous steroid hormone , that is produced in the adrenal glands,  the gonads, and the brain . DHEA is converted in the body to androstenedione, which then can be transformed into either testosterone or estrone (estrogenic hormone) . In bodybuilding supplements it is often added as muscle builder or fat burner.
DHEA-S (sulfate ester of DHEA) serves as a reservoir for DHEA with conversion by sulfotransferases . DHEA-S is the most abundant steroid in the body and it declines with age and this decline is thought to contribute to age-related decreased testosterone levels .
Effectiveness of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) as Testosterone Booster
DHEA is a controversial hormone and its studies are inconclusive about its effectiveness as a testosterone booster. In fact, there are quite a few studies that show increase in testosterone concentrations. A study with 100 mg DHEA in 16 young males ages 19+/-1 showed an increase in circulating DHEA by 2.5-fold, increased testosterone and reduced signs of muscle damage (lower muscle soreness was observed) . Another study  in young male soccer players (aged 19-22) using 100 mg DHEA for 28 days resulted in a significant increase of total testosterone (a 39% increase and 4% free testosterone increase), estradiol and DHEA levels. However, this increase in testosterone had no beneficial effects on body composition and muscle mass .
Several studies reported that serum sex steroid levels in both mature and young men were not significantly affected by DHEA supplementation and with only a minimal amount converted to testosterone and more to estrogen [7-9]. Another 8 week study conducted on young men (aged 23+/-4) found that daily dose of 150 mg DHEA in combination with resistance-training did not affect serum concentrations of free and total testosterone or estrogen .
It appears that doses of DHEA ranging around 100-150 mg elevate testosterone levels but that does not translate to increased muscle mass by itself. There are too few studies combining dehydroepiandrosterone and weight lifting. Its effectiveness in young population remains uncertain.
Its Effectiveness in Elderly (as DHEA Replacement Therapy)
DHEA seems to be more effective in elderly. The dose of 50 mg DHEA per day increased muscle mass and strength in combination with weight-lifting in elderly individuals . Serum testosterone was not significantly affected in men, serum estradiol increased about 30% in the men and about 70% in the women and there was modest (not significant) increase in serum IGF-1. A study by Weiss and associates  that was confounded with low dose Vitamin D and high-dose calcium reported that after 2 years of DHEA supplementation (50 mg per day) free testosterone, estrogen and IGF-1 were increased. A more recent study by Weiss et al.  also reported modest increase in free testosterone in elderly (65–75 year) men with same dose. In postmenopausal women low-dose DHEA (25 mg per day) was able to increase all steroid hormones in the serum and reduce SHBG and cortisol over the course of 1 year . While in hypoadrenal men 4 months of 50 mg of DHEA administration had no effect on serum testosterone levels .
Side Effects and Risks of DHEA
It is noted on WebMD.com  that: “DHEA is possibly safe for most people when used for just a few months. It can cause some side effects including acne, hair loss, stomach upset, and high blood pressure.” High doses of DHEA may be toxic to liver cells and may stop the body from making the hormone itself .
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