Dehydroepiandrosterone plays a fundamental role in the human body as a steroid hormone. The precursor of testosterone and estrogen, DHEA regulates development and reproduction. It also affects mental health and may treat schizophrenic behavior. The hormone achieves most of its effects by triggering the release of related steroids. Taking these other substances or taking supplements that increase such hormones provides an alternative approach. People should, however, consult with a doctor before using nutrition supplements as they can cause side effects.
Ingesting DHEA affects other anabolic steroids like testosterone. Testosterone remains essential for tissue construction and repair across the entire lifespan. A report by D. T. Villareal and J. O. Holloszy in the November 2006 edition of "American Journal of Physiology" showed that DHEA intake increased testosterone levels in both men and women. The hormone also enhanced the positive impact of exercise on muscle mass and physical strength.
Taking testosterone directly will produce similar results. A study by S. T. Page and co-workers presented in the March 2005 issue of "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism" indicated that testosterone injections improved lean body mass and grip strength. The hormone also enhanced athletic performance and caused no obvious side effects. Thus testosterone, like DHEA, has beneficial effects on muscle function and size.
Endogenous steroids like DHEA play a role in cardiovascular health. An investigation by V. Noyan and associates offered in the May 2004 edition of "Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica" looked at the relationship between indicators of DHEA level and measurements of heart function. Primary measures in this study were DHEA sulfate and high-density lipoprotein. The data revealed a direct relationship between these two variables. Thus, people with high DHEA had high HDL. Such findings suggest that DHEA intake may improve heart structure and function.
Estrogen levels also correlate well with cardiovascular measures. An experiment by K. Saltiki and colleagues described in the April 2010 issue of the medical journal "Endocrine" evaluated the steroid-heart relationship by assessing circulating estrogen levels and flow-mediated dilatation. The latter measure of endothelial dysfunction provides an early warning for heart disease. Results indicated a positive correlation between estrogen and vascularity. Greater amounts of estrogen correlated with greater flow. These data may indicate that taking estrogen, like taking DHEA, can protect the heart against age-related damage.
The steroid pregnenolone increases DHEA, so benefits obtained from taking DHEA can be matched by taking pregnenolone. Using the latter hormone also provides the unique advantage of increasing progesterone because pregnenolone is a precursor of that female steroid and DHEA is not.
Enhancement of circulating progesterone offers many benefits. It can, for example, combat age-related changes in postmenopausal women and promote fertility in premenopausal women. According to E. W. Freeman and coworkers, progesterone also has positive effects in men. These researchers tested the impact of progesterone on stress. Their results, published in February 2010 edition of "Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology," showed that progesterone intake improved mood scores following social stress. The hormone, however, also increased blood pressure. Thus, people should carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of supplement use before taking them.