Effects of short-term DHEA intake on hormonal responses in young recreationally trained athletes: modulation by gender
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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) figures on the World Anti-Doping Agency list of prohibited substances in sport because it is assumed that athletes expect a significant increase in testosterone through DHEA administration. The literature on the hormonal effects of DHEA intake nevertheless appears to be very scant in healthy young subjects, especially women.
We examined the effects of DHEA on adrenal and gonadal hormones, IGF1 and free T3 in healthy young male and female recreationally trained volunteers.
The study followed a double-blind, randomized-order crossover design. Lean healthy young men (n = 10) and women (n = 11), with all women using oral contraceptives, were treated daily with 100 mg of DHEA and placebo for 4 weeks. DHEA, DHEA-sulfate (DHEA-S), androstenedione, total testosterone (Tes), dihydrotestosterone (DHT), SHBG, estrone, cortisol, IGF1, and free T3 were measured before, in the middle and at the end of each treatment, as were blood glucose, liver transaminases and lipid status.
We observed a significant increase in DHEA, DHEA-S, androstenedione, Tes, DHT, and estrone in both men and women in the middle and at the end of DHEA treatment, but the increase in Tes was more marked in women (p < 0.001) than men (p < 0.05). No changes were found in the other parameters, irrespective of gender.
In young athletes, DHEA administration induces significant blood hormonal changes, some modulated by gender, which can be used as biomarkers of doping.
KeywordsDHEA administration Young males Young females Testosterone DHT Androstenedione
This project was carried out with the support of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD). The authors wish to express their gratitude to the subjects for their dedicated performance. In addition, we likewise thank Cathy Azulay, Blandine Bedora, Cathy Carmeni, Nathalie Crépin, Noëmie Etes, Dr. Jean Israël, Clotilde Le Tiec, Isabelle Le, Christiane Papelier, and Thierry Poulain for their expert assistance.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest that would prejudice the impartiality of the reported scientific work.
All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. All individual participants included in the study provided written informed consent according to Institutional Review Board guidelines for the protection of human subjects.
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