Recently, the steroid DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) has been in the news, and not for claims of doping in sports or cheating athletes as you may expect from a supplement ingredient touted as a performance enhancer.
Nor as a miracle anti aging cure or as a way to improve your exercise performance and your sex drive, as the many supplement companies selling DHEA derived products claim.
Instead, it seems that DHEA has become the drug of choice for London terrorists, who appear to have used it before attacking members of the public.
The three London terrorists (Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane, and Youssef Zaghba) were “pumped up” on steroids before mounting their attack in June 3rd 2017. The attack left 8 people dead as the vicious trio ran a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, before running amok with knives in nearby Borough Market. The three terrorists were shot and killed by police marksmen and following the toxicology report, it was found that all three had high levels of the steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone in their blood.
The Westminster Bridge attacker (Khalid Masood) who killed five people after running a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in March 2017 and then attempted to storm the Houses of Parliament armed with knife, also had high levels of Dehydroepiandrosterone in his blood. Source
So, what is DHEA and what does it do? More importantly what are the risks to taking it, both for the user and the people around the user?
Take a look at our DHEA FAQS to find out.
DHEA, or Dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone that is produced in the body by your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are found at the top of each kidney, and their role is to help the body react to stress such as injury, regulate blood pressure, control blood sugar and burn protein and fat, and produce hormones.
One of these hormones is DHEA, and in turn this is used by the body to help produce other hormones – most notably the male and female sex hormones including testosterone and oestrogen.
Scientists are still not exactly sure of all the functions on DHEA but it is the hormone boosting capabilities, in particular testosterone that makes it sound enticing for sports performance.
The word has different meanings. Steroids can refer to the natural hormones in your body that provide a range of purposes such as muscle growth, tissue repair, and more. Alternatively the word steroid can refer to man made substances.
There are two types of synthetic steroids. There are corticosteroids – often prescribed for allergies, skin conditions, rheumatism, and other medical purposes.
However the type of steroid that everyone thinks of is anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are man made versions of testosterone, and it is this type which is so commonly abused. Anabolic means muscle building, and anabolic steroid abuse is rife throughout sport.
Dehydroepiandrosterone is not testosterone. It is the precursor to making hormones most notably testosterone so although it is a steroid because it is a hormone, it is not technically an anabolic steroid.
The overall effect should be much the same effect as taking an illegal testosterone, but because DHEA is not classified as an anabolic steroid it is much more easily available to buy.
DHEA is legal to buy in the USA, and is easily available. It is present in numerous over the counter supplements touted for bodybuilding, increasing testosterone levels, anti aging, and even depression. Many of the supplements we review on Muscle Watchdog contain varying quantities of DHEA. Sometimes the DHEA is part of a herbal ingredient such as Wild Yam, other times, the source of the drug is not revealed and it has probably been manufactured in a lab.
There have been calls to have DHEA made illegal because of the health risks but at the time of writing, DHEA is legal so much easier to buy than illegal anabolic steroids. And as the testosterone boosting effects can be much the same, this does seem to be a legal loophole for supplement manufacturers to sell otherwise illegal steroids.
In the UK, the legality of DHEA seems to be a grey area. We checked out the Gov website and although Anabolic steroids are named as class C substances, DHEA is not mentioned. We can only assume that this is another example of the DHEA legal loophole. Source
DHEA is made in the adrenal glands, and is a precursor to the sex hormones for men and oestrogen for women. In the body its role is to produce the hormones that you need. When you take DHEA in supplement form, results can be unpredictable. Increasing the male hormones (androgens of which testosterone is the most powerful) can disrupt your hormonal balance. Increasing oestrogen can also have negative effects.
As with all your hormones, DHEA levels dip as you get past 30 years old. When this happens, hormonal production slows and can lead to aging issues such as loss of libido and strength, fatigue, bone erosion, and more.
Too many male hormones and too much testosterone can cause numerous side effects, including making the user become increasingly aggressive. Increasing testosterone leads to increased strength and muscle building along with more manly characteristics.
Yes it does, but according to some doctors it does not seem to have more than a minimal effect upon oestrogen. The main effect of DHEA is upon androgens, the male hormones.
To further guard against the potential oestrogen boosting effect, many supplement manufacturers include aromase inhibitors in their supplements.
An aromase inhibitor blocks oestrogen production, and this type of medication is most commonly used in treatment for breast cancer with drugs such as Tamoxifen and Exemastane. Surprisingly, aromase inhibitors are not illegal in supplements, where they are often included in far higher levels than you can find in prescription medication.
Including DHEA with an aromase inhibitor should further increase androgen levels, rather than oestrogen levels.
Roid rage is a steroid induced anger caused by increasing testosterone levels, so DHEA can cause this effect. The user can feel euphoric and powerful with fast changing mood swings, that quickly turn to rage and aggression.
Many men who have taken DHEA for sports performance have been alarmed by their mood swings and irritability quickly spilling over into full blown rage. We guess this was the effect that the London terrorists were hoping to achieve by their use of DHEA before the attacks.
DHEA supplements are touted for women because of numerous supposed benefits. These include anti aging, improving depression, and vaginal dryness. DHEA is sometimes prescribed by private doctors as an adjunct to treatments for the menopause.
The thinking behind it, is that increasing Dehydroepiandrosterone levels in the body will help your body make the hormones that are naturally lost by aging.
Perceived benefits include; increased vitality and energy, youthful looking skin, decrease body fat, and improve sex drive. All this sounds good but many women have reported side effects. Source
Dehydroepiandrosterone is a natural hormone in your body. According to doctors, it helps to balance out the other hormones by increasing what is needed and to maintain a balanced level with cortisol, a stress hormone also manufactured in your adrenal glands.
When you decide to “tweak” this hormonal balance yourself, it can lead to numerous potential long term side effects. Because DHEA could lead to higher than normal levels of oestrogens and androgens in your body, this may increase the risk of hormonally sensitive cancers such as ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. Source
Health advice is to not take DHAE at all unless you have medical supervision, but in general the recommended daily dose for men is 50mg and just 25mg a day for women. Most easily available OTC supplements are way in excess of these figures. Source
Side effects can be unpredictable. In most cases, ingredient amounts are not consistent and when you buy unregulated DHAE supplements, you have no real idea of the quality or the quantities of the active components.
In addition, supplements work differently in people and will depend upon your age, your own hormone levels, your gender, and even your general fitness.
For women, side effects may include, changes to menstrual cycles, mood swings, irritability, and insomnia. DHAE can also cause masculinisation such as hair loss, deepened voice, acne, and facial hair.
In men common side effects include; mood swings, increased aggression, irritability, nasal congestion, fatigue, irregular heart beat, and headaches. As seen with the women there can be hormonal side effects such as increased breast size (gynecomastia), tenderness in the breasts, and testicular wasting.
DHEA is not a controlled substance, because it is legal to buy. However it is a controlled substance in sport because it is classified as a performance enhancer. It is therefore banned by the Olympics, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), and most American Sports organisations such as the National Football League (NFL). It is also banned in UK sport, according to the UK Anti Doping Agency.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.