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DHEA Supplements

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DHEA and Athletic Performance

DHEA supplements are sometimes used by athletes because of a claim that it can improve muscle strength and enhance athletic performance. That's because DHEA is a "prohormone" -- a substance that can increase the level of steroid hormones such as testosterone.

There is little evidence to show that DHEA has any effect on enhancing muscle strength. Its use is banned by sports organizations such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

There are risks associated with using any pre-steroid enhancer. And the higher the dose, the greater the risk. Possible side effects include:

  • Permanent stunting of growth
  • Aggressive behavior, known as "roid rage"
  • Mood swings and other psychological symptoms
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Liver problems
  • Changes in cholesterol level

Since DHEA can increase the level of both testosterone and estrogen, women who use DHEA can sometimes experience such permanent side effects as:

  • Voice changes
  • Hair loss
  • Growth of facial hair

Men can sometimes experience such symptoms as:

  • Breast enlargement
  • Shrunken testicles
  • Reduced sperm production

Talking With Your Doctor

If you are thinking of using DHEA supplements, there are several reasons you should discuss doing so with your doctor first:

  • Many of the claims for DHEA involve serious medical conditions. These conditions need to be evaluated and treated by a health care professional.
  • DHEA can interact with some medications and could alter their effectiveness.
  • Because DHEA can raise the level of both male and female hormones, the supplements can have a negative effect on hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer.
  • Use of DHEA carries some risk and can cause a range of side effects, though this usually just occurs at the higher end of the dose range.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on October 06, 2014
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