The human body contains two important compounds called DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). Both compounds play a role in the various regulatory and developmental processes that the body goes through. Although the acronyms for these two compounds appear to be similar, their classification, synthesis, and functions are all completely different. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and DHEA is an endogenous steroid hormone. Learn more about the difference between DHA and DHEA in this article.
Are DHA and DHEA The Same?
Despite having similar acronyms, DHA and DHEA are entirely different compounds. DHEA is a naturally occurring steroid hormone. The brain, gonads, and adrenal glands are where DHEA production happens. The central nervous system contains DHEA, which serves as a crucial element in the growth and excitation of neurons.
Meanwhile, DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Alpha-linolenic acid modified Escherichia coli, and the photosynthetic microalgae Crypthecodinium cohnii and Schizochytrium all contribute to the production of DHA. Both substances play a role in the different regulatory and developmental processes that the body goes through .
DHEA vs. DHA For Fertility
People who are trying to get pregnant frequently mix up the supplements DHEA and DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 fatty acid that coexists with the body’s EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA is added to prenatal vitamins to support a fetus’s central nervous system and visual development because it is good for neurological health. Both pregnant and nursing women should take a DHA supplement, even though prenatal supplements may not always contain it.
DHA is an essential supplement to take while pregnant or breastfeeding because it’s good for the mother’s health and the developing baby’s health. While EPA is absent from almost all prenatal supplements, DHA is a crucial omega-3 fatty acid. The omega-3 fatty acid EPA has anti-inflammatory properties and is particularly helpful when trying to get pregnant. Many studies have shown that men and women with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids have higher fertility rates than those with lower blood levels of these acids .
DHEA is an acronym for Dehydroepiandrosterone. Compared to DHA, a fatty acid, DHEA is a hormone and one of the most prevalent circulating hormones in the body. DHEA, which is a precursor to hormones like testosterone and estrogens and may help increase follicular stimulation, has recently attracted a lot of attention in the field of fertility for helping women with decreased ovarian reserve (DOR) and premature ovarian failure (POF). It is also known to decline as people get older rapidly. In a few small studies, it was discovered that DHEA helps IVF treatments succeed in women who don’t respond well to them. In some studies, DHEA may help prevent miscarriages by lowering aneuploidy (chromosomal abnormalities) in developing embryos .
DHEA For Women
It is not surprising that a supplement that affects the hormones responsible for sex between men and women can also affect sexual performance. For example, DHEA supplements may enhance ovarian function in infertile women. It improved the success rate of IVF in 25 women who had fertility issues .
DHEA reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms and enhanced general well-being and sexual satisfaction in women with adrenal insufficiency. According to some studies, women close to menopause and those with depression had higher levels of DHEA than those without depression .
How to Increase DHEA Naturally
Healthy fats are crucial for producing cholesterol, which is required to make DHEA. Coconut products, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and supplements containing purified omega-3 fish oil are examples of healthy fat sources. Wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, free-range eggs, and grass-fed red meat are all good protein sources to increase DHEA production .
A healthy DHEA level depends heavily on vitamin D . To keep vitamin D (25-OH) levels between 60 and 100 ng/ml, regular sun exposure and supplementation are advised. It is strongly advised to take vitamin D supplements as they can be very beneficial.
DHEA Potential Side Effects
DHEA supplements are not recommended for children or pregnant or nursing women . Additionally, DHEA may change how much cholesterol and hormones like insulin, thyroid hormones, and adrenal hormones are produced in the body. When using DHEA, people with hormone-sensitive conditions, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, should exercise caution, as should those with liver disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid disorders, blood clotting disorders, or blood clotting disorders .
DHEA levels above a certain threshold have been linked to psychotic disorders. Only use DHEA under a healthcare provider’s supervision if you have a psychiatric disorder or are at risk of developing one .
The adrenal glands make the hormone DHEA. Additionally, it is a precursor in synthesizing sex hormones for both men and women. DHEA is generally significant as a supplement for enhancing sex drive, developing muscle, etc.
Alternatively, DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is ingested through food. It is also a structural part of various body structures. The growth of the optical system and the central nervous systems also depends on DHA. Therefore, DHA is a crucial supplement during pregnancy. DHEA, on the other hand, is not allowed to take during pregnancy. Therefore, the substance type and significance are what set DHEA and DHA apart.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Barad, D., & Gleicher, N. (2006). Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone on oocyte and embryo yields, embryo grade and cell number in IVF. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 21(11), 2845–2849. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/del254
- Morrison, M. F., Freeman, E. W., Lin, H., & Sammel, M. D. (2011). Higher DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate) levels are associated with depressive symptoms during the menopausal transition: results from the PENN Ovarian Aging Study. Archives of women’s mental health, 14(5), 375–382. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-011-0231-5
- Zofková, I., Hill, M., & Zajícková, K. (2002). Dehydroepiandrosterone status in postmenopausal women is determined by the gene for the vitamin D receptor. Hormone and metabolic research = Hormon- und Stoffwechselforschung = Hormones et metabolisme, 34(3), 127–131. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2002-23195
- Chiu, Y. H., Karmon, A. E., Gaskins, A. J., Arvizu, M., Williams, P. L., Souter, I., Rueda, B. R., Hauser, R., Chavarro, J. E., & EARTH Study Team (2018). Serum omega-3 fatty acids and treatment outcomes among women undergoing assisted reproduction. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 33(1), 156–165. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dex335
- Gleicher, N., Ryan, E., Weghofer, A., Blanco-Mejia, S., & Barad, D. H. (2009). Miscarriage rates after dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation in women with diminished ovarian reserve: a case control study. Reproductive biology and endocrinology : RB&E, 7, 108. https://doi.org/10.1186/1477-7827-7-108
- Mäntyselkä, A., Jääskeläinen, J., Eloranta, A. M., Väistö, J., Voutilainen, R., Ong, K., Brage, S., Lakka, T. A., & Lindi, V. (2018). Associations of lifestyle factors with serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate and insulin-like growth factor-1 concentration in prepubertal children. Clinical endocrinology, 88(2), 234–242. https://doi.org/10.1111/cen.13511
- Raven, P. W., & Hinson, J. P. (2007). Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and the menopause: an update. Menopause international, 13(2), 75–78. https://doi.org/10.1258/175404507780796370
- Peixoto, C., Devicari Cheda, J. N., Nardi, A. E., Veras, A. B., & Cardoso, A. (2014). The effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in the treatment of depression and depressive symptoms in other psychiatric and medical illnesses: a systematic review. Current drug targets, 15(9), 901–914. https://doi.org/10.2174/1389450115666140717111116