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What is DHEA?

July 11, 1997

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is made by the body's adrenal glands near the kidneys. Although it is not known whether DHEA itself causes hormonal effects, the body breaks DHEA down into two hormones - estrogen and testosterone - that are known to affect the body in many ways, according to National Institute on Aging, part of National Institutes of Health.

The amount of DHEA the body produces declines after people reach the age of about 30, and DHEA levels found in the bloodstream continue to drop as people age.

Contrary to recent popular claims, DHEA, as well as melatonin, human growth hormone, estrogen and testosterone, have not been shown to prevent or reverse aging, according to a National Institute on Aging fact sheet. In April, National Institute on Aging launched an education effort urging consumers to use caution when using hormone supplements, including DHEA, that recently have become popular. There are no long-term human studies of the effects of DHEA, and that is the source of concern, according to press officer Michael Miller.

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For the free National Institute on Aging fact sheet, "Pills, Patches and Shots: Can Hormones Prevent Aging?" with information about DHEA, call 1-800-222-2225.

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