DHEA, short for dehydroepiandrosterone, is a male sex hormone that’s a precursor to testosterone. It’s taken in supplemental form to increase sex drive, improve sports performance, and fight sexual dysfunction.
As one of the few androgens you can buy over the counter, it’s both popular and powerful thanks to these broad areas of use.
If you want to get the benefits of DHEA, you’ll want a top-ranked supplement. Fortunately, our team has researched and reviewed the ten best DHEA brands on the market.
Zhou DHEA Hormonal Balance Formula is a super-pure moderate dose DHEA supplement that delivers 50 mg of DHEA per capsule.
It’s a good middle ground between extra-strength formulations and lower-dose variants. Additionally, the fact that the only other ingredients are rice flour and cellulose to make up the capsule make this an excellent all-around choice, and our number one pick.
2. Pure Encapsulations DHEA
Pure Encapsulations makes a lower-dose DHEA supplement that’s very straightforward in terms of its supplement design.
If you are looking for a 25 mg DHEA supplement without any unnecessary binders, fillers, or additives, it’s an excellent choice, though not the most effective one if you are looking for a higher dose.
3. Sheer Strength SheerHealth DHEA Extra Strength
Sheer Strength SheerHealth DHEA Extra Strength is a high-dose and super-pure DHEA supplement that delivers 100 mg of this androgen in a cellulose capsule along with nothing else, aside from a bit of rice flour to fill out the capsule. It’s an excellent choice if you need a high dosage source of DHEA for better physical and sexual performance.
4. Havasu Nutrition DHEA
Havasu Nutrition DHEA is another moderate dose DHEA supplement. Each capsule has 50 mg of DHEA and the formulation is designed very clean, so it’s good if supplement purity is important to you.
The only people who may not like this supplement are strict vegetarians and vegans, as the capsule is made out of animal-derived gelatin. Aside from that, it’s a strong pick for just about everyone else.
5. aSquared Nutrition DHEA Maximum Strength
aSquared Nutrition DHEA Maximum Strength delivers 100 mg of DHEA per capsule, landing it firmly in the category of high-dosage DHEA sources.
The supplement design is very clean, though the one downside (for some people at least) to this supplement is that the capsules are gelatin-based. If that’s not a problem, this is a great choice for you.
6. We Like Vitamins DHEA
We Like Vitamins DHEA is another high-dose option that’s pretty high-quality. The gelatin-based capsules deliver 100 mg of DHEA each, and the only other ingredient is rice flour.
It’s hard to go wrong with We Like Vitamins DHEA if you want a high dosage DHEA source.
7. Integrative Therapeutics DHEA-5
Integrative Therapeutics DHEA-5 is one of the better low-dosage options of DHEA if you are looking to microdose this supplement, or if you need to fine tune your intake at a higher resolution than larger dose supplements allow.
Though it’s only got 5 mg of DHEA per capsule, the supplement design is pretty clean, making it a good choice for small adjustments in DHEA dosing.
8. Life Extension DHEA
Life Extension DHEA has a lower dosage of 25 mg of DHEA per capsule, and the capsules themselves are a bit bloated with fillers and binders.
Vegans won’t be a fan of this supplement either, as the capsule is gelatin-based, but if all you are after is a low dose DHEA source, it’s still an okay pick.
9. Douglas Laboratories DHEA
Douglas Laboratories DHEA makes a particularly low dose version of DHEA, with only 5 mg of the androgen per capsule.
This gives it niche uses for people who want to fine-tune their DHEA intake, but most people interested in DHEA would be better served with a higher dose supplement.
The capsule design isn’t the cleanest, either, cementing Douglas Laboratories DHEA as a very niche use item.
10. Natrol DHEA Mood & Stress
Natrol DHEA Mood & Stress is a lower-dose DHEA formulation that’s specifically designed for addressing the kinds of mood disturbances that can go along with low levels of androgens.
Each capsule delivers 25 mg of DHEA, but the major turn-off is the presence of a lot of unnecessary additives and fillers. If clean supplement design is important to you, you may want to look elsewhere.
DHEA benefits and side effects
As a strong androgen hormone, DHEA has quite a lot of potential applications. People take it as a supplement for everything from treating sexual dysfunctions to improving athletic performance.
It’s a potent hormone in and of itself, and combined with the fact that it serves as a direct precursor to testosterone, you can see why this supplement is so popular and, at times, controversial.
DHEA can increase the amount of testosterone in your body. DHEA first entered the public’s eye in the 1990s thanks to some initial research on its anti-aging properties, but soon it was being touted as a supplement for athletic performance.
International sporting bodies quickly added it to their list of performance enhancing substances (a practice which continues to today), but unlike other performance enhancers like testosterone or steroids, you can buy DHEA over the counter just fine, making it one of the most popular natural steroid alternatives.
Researchers wondered if the effects of DHEA might be overblown, and decided to test whether DHEA could actually affect the level of testosterone in your body.
A technical report published in the journal Clinical Chemistry by Larry D. Bowers confirmed that DHEA does manipulate your body’s testosterone levels (1).
By using commercially-available DHEA supplements, Bowers was able to show that subjects who took DHEA supplements demonstrated an increase in their ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone level, a change that’s similar to what occurs when you take something that directly boosts your testosterone levels.
This confirms the suspicions that DHEA could be able to help you achieve many of the sexual and physical benefits attributed to testosterone.
DHEA could help treat erectile dysfunction and other sexual dysfunctions in men. Initial evidence for the role of DHEA in sexual health and wellness came from a large population-based study in Massachusetts that uncovered a correlation between low levels of DHEA and an increased risk for erectile dysfunction.
This finding inspired researchers at the University of Vienna in Austria to conduct a clinical trial of DHEA supplementation for treating erectile dysfunction.
Their results were published in the journal Urology (2). In their experiment, they randomly assigned patients with erectile dysfunction to receive either a 50 mg DHEA supplement every day or a placebo.
The researchers followed the subjects for six months, and found that the DHEA supplement was associated with improvements in erectile and sexual function.
Though this experimental trial was a small one, it suggest that DHEA could be a useful treatment for erectile dysfunction and possibly other sexual dysfunctions that men encounter, especially as they get older and their androgen levels decrease.
DHEA may be useful in treating cognitive symptoms of aging and depression. In addition to its physical benefits, DHEA has shown some promise when it comes to addressing mental factors as well.
Most clinical research has focused on people suffering from the various maladies that disproportionately affect older people: cognitive decline, poor mood, and depression.
A study published in the journal Aging Research Reviews by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada examined the state of the evidence on using DHEA to address issues related to aging (3).
The researchers cited numerous studies showing that DHEA could be beneficial in improving psychological well-being and improving symptoms of depression. They recommended further research into the use of DHEA for psychological purposes as well as physical purposes.
Earlier research published in 1999 made headlines for questioning whether DHEA might be a “fountain of youth,” as it connected declines in DHEA levels with many of the maladies of aging (4).
The findings presented in this paper suggested that maintaining DHEA levels might be able to sustain youthful cellular function as the body gets older.
Not all DHEA supplements are equally effective. One report that shed light onto the wide variability in the quality of DHEA supplements on the market was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (5).
The study used analytical chemistry techniques to test the levels of DHEA in 16 different over the counter DHEA supplements. Most of the supplements had within plus or minus 10% of the label stated amount of DHEA, but a few troubling results came back.
First, three supplements had essentially no DHEA in them at all! These were labeled as containing “naturally-occurring DHEA” but did not state the amount of DHEA contained explicitly on the label.
Further, another supplement had over 50% more DHEA than it actually reported on its label.
These results highlight the importance of using a high-quality and top-ranked brand of DHEA, and they especially underscore the importance of only getting products that actually list their DHEA content.
If a product says it contains DHEA, but does not explicitly state the amount, there might be a chance there’s only trace amounts.
In most large clinical trials, the function of DHEA is fairly well-tolerated. Most big studies do not report any significant adverse effects in short-term use.
One study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed a group of elderly men and women taking DHEA for two full years and reported no major adverse effects (6).
However, some researchers have raised concerns about increases in insulin resistance after long periods (i.e. many years) of DHEA use, but this is based on studies in postmenopausal women.
A few case reports have noted adverse effects associated with high doses taken over many months. One such study describes a patient who was taking 200 to 300 mg of DHEA per day who went into a manic rage (7).
The patient had a history of bipolar disorder, so the doctors could not definitively prove that DHEA was the cause of the manic episode, but they warned other clinicians of the potential for DHEA to trigger episodes of mania at high doses.
In the scientific literature, the typical dose of DHEA is either 50 or 100 mg per day. This should serve as a good jumping-off point for dosing DHEA if you choose to supplement with it.
Higher doses could cause problems, such as the case report mentioned above, so it’s best not to exceed 100 mg per day.
DHEA is a powerful biological hormone that is available over the counter as a supplement, and it has a broad range of functions, affecting everything from cognition and well-being to athletic performance, aging, and sexual health.
The strongest evidence for DHEA appears to be in favor of its use to treat erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men. While it does appear to affect blood levels of testosterone ratios, the direct benefits on performance are not clear.
What is clear is that it’s important to get a high-quality DHEA supplement that lists a specific dosage on the label. DHEA is fairly well-tolerated, though some serious side effects have been reported among people taking high doses for several months at a time.
The usual dosage used in scientific studies is between 50 and 100 mg per day, usually taken in one dose.
Though there’s still controversy over the efficacy of DHEA, it might be worth looking into if you want to take advantage of its versatile properties.
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Author: John Davis