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Blood levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate (DHEAS) and androgens, such as testosterone, fall with age. Over the last two decades, there have been many clinical trials performed replacing these sex hormones, hoping to improve symptoms such as general well-being, energy, and sex drive. DHEAS is the most abundant steroid in serum; however, no receptor for DHEA has yet been found. It can be interconverted into estrogenic and androgenic metabolites in those tissues that have the appropriate enzyme systems. 


Elraiyah and colleagues performed a systematic review and meta-analysis [1] of studies where DHEA was given orally. They identified 23 randomized, controlled trials which enrolled a total of 1188 women. They found that DHEA replacement did not improve sexual desire (or any other measure of sexuality), nor did it have an effect on metabolic markers such as lipids, fasting glucose, weight (or bone mineral density).


  • John Eden
    Associate Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology, University of New South Wales; Director, Womens Health and Research Institute of Australia; Head, Barbara Gross Research Unit, Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney, Australia


  1. Elraiyah T, Sonbol MB, Wang Z, et al. The benefits and harms of systemic DHEA in postmenopausal women with normal adrenal function: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2014;99:3536-42
  2. Davis SR, Panjari M, Stanczyk FZ. Clinical review: DHEA replacement for postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2011;96:1642-53
  3. Panjari M, Davis SR. Vaginal DHEA to treat menopause related atrophy: a review of the evidence. Maturitas 2011;70:22-5
  4. Labrie F, Martel C, Berube R, et al. Intravaginal prasterone (DHEA) provides local action without clinically significant changes in serum concentrations of estrogens or androgens. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2013;138:359-67
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