DHEA is short for dehydroepiandrosterone. DHEA is a steroid hormone distinguished from others by its unique chemical structure. DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands (located just above the kidneys) as well as by the brain and the skin, and is the most abundant steroid in the human body.
As newborns, we have an extremely high level of DHEA, but within a few days after birth, our DHEA level drops to nearly zero. Then between the ages of six and eight, we experience the event called “adrenarche,” in which our adrenal glands begin to stir and gear up for puberty. At the same time, our DHEA level begins to rise steadily and continues to rise until it peaks at around age twenty-five to thirty. From that point on, it declines at a rate of about 2 percent a year, and we begin to feel the result of this decline in our mid-forties. By eighty, our DHEA level is only fifteen percent of what it was when we were twenty-five. This drop in DHEA levels correlates dramatically with the signs and symptoms associated with aging.
DHEA is currently the focus of some of the most exciting medical research of this century. Researchers at distinguished medical centers all over the country are studying the properties and promise of DHEA. It may be a potent protector against cancer. It might protect against heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol and preventing blood clots. Studies also demonstrate that DHEA may improve memory, strengthen the immune system, prevent bone loss, and may even protect us from diabetes and autoimmune disease. It may aid in the fight against fatigue and depression; it also might enhance feelings of well-being and might increase strength. DHEA may alleviate symptoms of menopause, reduce body fat, and might even enhance libido.