What’s the deal with DHEA?
DEhydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, (also known as Prasterone), and chemical variations of this dietary supplement ingredient are commonly found in products marketed for sexual enhancement and bodybuilding such as testosterone boosters and prohormones.
They’re also marketed to produce effects similar to anabolic steroids. Unlike anabolic steroids, DHEA is not illegal, but it is prohibited by professional sports organizations such the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Members of the Coast Guard should especially look out for supplements containing this ingredient, as they are not permitted to take any substances NCAA classifies as anabolic agents.
DHEA is a steroid hormone that the human body produces naturally, along with various chemical relatives such as 1-androsterone, 7-keto-DHEA, and 19-nor-DHEA. These substances also can be made in a laboratory. Many dietary supplement products contain some form of DHEA with the intent of producing effects like those of anabolic steroids. So far, there isn’t enough evidence to show that any of these ingredients in supplements can benefit strength, lean body mass, or testosterone levels. However, some research has shown that they do affect hormone balance, including some adverse effects. In addition, some of these may affect steroid-specific drug test results.
In the U.S., DHEA is not a controlled substance, but DHEA and its chemical relatives are all on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of substances prohibited for use by athletes at all time (in and out of competition).
If you see an ingredient name on a label that you think might be one of these substances, please use our Ask the Expert feature to send us a question about it.
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