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Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a hormone naturally produced by the body. Supplements containing DHEA for men are reported to treat erectile dysfunction. While medical studies are inconclusive, there is some evidence that the supplements may help men who suffer from this condition to develop and maintain an erection. The drawbacks of DHEA, however, are numerous. It is difficult to determine the quality of the DHEA supplements, and there are many possible side effects associated with taking DHEA.
DHEA is produced normally in the adrenal glands. It is used by the body to manufacture the male and female sex hormones: androgen and estrogen. Peak levels of DHEA occur around age 25 and then decline. There is evidence that individuals with low levels of DHEA are more likely to suffer from certain health conditions, but there is no evidence that these low levels cause the conditions. Some health concerns associated with low levels of DHEA include memory loss, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
Research on the long term safety of supplements containing DHEA for men have not been conducted. It is important to take the supplement only under the supervision of a physician. DHEA should only be considered by individuals over 40 unless a doctor has confirmed low levels of the hormone in the body. The DHEA supplements should come from a professional healthcare provider. This decreases the risk of contamination and increases the likelihood that the amount of DHEA listed on the label is the actual amount contained in the product.
Individuals with a history of depression or bipolar disorder may become irritable or develop mania while supplementing with DHEA. It may also worsen existing liver conditions. Supplementing with DHEA may also stop the body from producing the hormone naturally.
Supplements containing DHEA for men are aimed at increasing the production of testosterone. High levels of testosterone may lead to baldness, high blood pressure, aggressiveness, and an increased risk of developing hormone-related cancers. Anyone with a family history of hormone related cancers should not take DHEA supplements. Because of its ability to increase testosterone levels, DHEA supplements are banned substances by the National Football League and International Olympic Committee.
Barbiturates, corticosteroids, and AZT, which is part of the drug therapy commonly used to treat HIV, can all interact negatively with DHEA. These supplements may also interfere with oral medications taken for diabetes. Supplements containing DHEA for men should not be taken with other forms of testosterone therapy.