So almost a decade ago I wrote what I believed to be the first article on DHEA as it applied to the benefits to women specifically. I have updated it several times over the years, and just recently as seen below (2018). The other day, a women asked me what I thought of the drug INTRAROSA (Prasterone). Her doctor mentioned it for her to consider and said he’s seen good responses in women using it. On the site it says:
“INTRAROSA™ is a steroid indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe dyspareunia, a symptom of vulvar and vaginal atrophy, due to menopause.”
So I did some digging to see what this amazing “steroid” that helps women? Yup, just good old dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). And typical of pharma, they list is as “3β-hydroxyandrost-5-en-17-one” to throw people off.
What is 3β-hydroxyandrost-5-en-17-one? Yup, another way of writing DHEA… Per usual, a cheap supplement has been re sold as a wildly over expensive drug and given a different route of administration. It’s claimed “…The exact mechanism of action of Intrarosa has not been fully established.1Treatment with Intrarosa does not result in clinically meaningful increases in serum plasma concentrations” Translated, they’re claiming it’s a local tissue effect, but we have plenty of studies to show it benefits women when taken orally for post-menopausal women, and non. The company did not do comparative studies of this product vs oral administration, only their product vs a placebo, so we don’t know if the far less expensive and easier route of taking a DHEA pill daily will have similar benefits, but as the article below suggests, it’s clear DHEA is effective. Personally, until I see comparative studies, I have my doubts Prasterone is superior to the much less expensive OTC DHEA supplements. Until I see such studies, it looks like another way pharma has figured out how to profit from an inexpensive easy to find supplement…
This has been one of my most popular articles over the years, and the data for DHEA and women has only improved since writing it circa 2010. I believe I was the first person to really stress the sex differences of supplemental DHEA in men vs women, and several recent studies confirm it. For example, a recent study (J.Endocrine. 2018 Oct 11.) found DHEA supplements improved sexual function in premenopausal women, mostly likely due to the bump in testosterone levels, although DHEA may have additional benefits not directly associated with its conversion to T and other hormones.
Even more interesting, a compilation of studies found DHEA improve bone mineral density and body comp in women, but not men. Again, no surprise to me! As expected, the effects will be more dramatic in older women due to their age related decline in various hormones that DHEA can help restore, but it’s also helpful to younger women (see below) in my experience.
I have posted links to the recent studies at the end of this article for those interested.
DHEA; The Most Underrated Supplement For Women?
Have you ever noticed if a supplement, drug, etc is tried in men, and fails to work, it’s written off as being ineffective? Although improving, it’s well known that men have been the standard subjects in research, with the results often being applied to women as an afterthought. In recent years, that situation has improved and women are viewed as the physiologically distinct people they are from men, and studies looking at specific effects in women – using women as the test subjects – has grown dramatically. That’s the good news at least. The bad news is, there’s still plenty of research out there done on men, being applied to women, sometimes to the detriment of women. Obviously, men and women are not so different that a great deal of research fails to be perfectly applicable to both sexes, but the fact remains a great deal of prior research was done looking at men, and the results, good or bad, applied to women more as an after thought.
Such is the case with DHEA in my view…