What are the side effects of DHEA?

DHEA is a hormone and part of a steroid pathway. There are concerns that using it as a supplement may increase the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers, including prostate, breast and ovarian cancers. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has banned DHEA use among athletes.

DHEA has been linked to:

  • Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol levels
  • Increased facial hair in women or hair loss
  • Acne
  • Mania and heart palpitations
  • Liver problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance

Supplements such as DHEA can also cause serious adverse effects when mixed with prescription or nonprescription drugs.

What do you tell people who want to try DHEA?

DHEA supplementation doesn't have proven benefits in older adults and might cause adverse side effects. Don't take DHEA to prevent, delay or reverse age-related changes in your body or to boost athletic performance.

Instead, remember that there's no substitute for a healthy lifestyle. Maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, include physical activity in your daily routine, and seek regular health screenings.

Sept. 09, 2014 See more In-depth