DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is most known for being a pro-hormone which in the body gets converted to testosterone and estrogen. It is a long held view that DHEA exerts all its effects via conversion to testosterone and estrogen. However, recent studies show that DHEA also has several health promoting non-hormonal actions...
DHEA is produced mainly by the adrenal cortex, and is rapidly sulfated by sulfotransferases into DHEA-S. DHEA and its sulfated form DHEA-S is the most abundant steroid (pro)hormone circulating in the blood stream. The sulfated from of DHEA has a longer half-life in the blood and its levels remain stable throughout the day, are not altered significantly by the menstrual cycle. When getting a blood test for DHEA, the fraction that is routinely measured is therefore DHEA-S. In response to metabolic demand, DHEA-S is rapidly converted back to DHEA (e.g. is hydrolyzed to DHEA by sulfatases).
DHEA levels decrease approximately 80% between ages 25 and 75 year.[2, 3] This large decline in DHEA spurred research interest in the possibility that aging related DHEA deficiency may play a role in the deterioration of physiological and metabolic functions with aging, and in the development of chronic diseases.