DHEA has been heralded as an anti-aging supplement that boosts sexual performance, enhances bone and muscle mass, and promotes vitality. It is sometimes called a prohormone because it's broken down to form testosterone.
A Mayo Clinic study found that low doses of DHEA or testosterone had no effect on body composition (body fat and lean mass), insulin sensitivity, muscle strength or quality of life. The supplements produced small increases in bone density. Researchers used extremely low doses of DHEA (50 milligrams per day) and testosterone (5 milligrams per day), which is below levels typically used by older adults or in studies showing beneficial effects.
On a positive note, the study showed that men could take low doses of testosterone or DHEA safely and without side effects. Studies from the Charles R. Drew College of Medicine in Los Angeles showed that higher doses of testosterone (50 to 600 milligrams per week) increase muscle mass and strength in direct proportion to dose (Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 281: E1172-118, 2001).
Higher doses of DHEA and testosterone have beneficial effects, but are sometimes accompanied by side effects.