Clinical review: The benefits and harms of systemic dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in postmenopausal women with normal adrenal function: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Oct;99(10):3536-42. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-2261.


Context: Exogenous dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) therapy has been proposed to replenish the depletion of endogenous DHEA and its sulfate form, which occurs with advancing age and is thought to be associated with loss of libido and menopausal symptoms.

Objective: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to summarize the evidence supporting the use of systemic DHEA in postmenopausal women with normal adrenal function.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycInfo, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Scopus through January 2014. Pairs of reviewers, working independently, selected studies and extracted data from eligible randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We used the random-effects model to pool across studies and evaluated heterogeneity using the I(2) statistic.

Results: We included 23 RCTs with moderate to high risk of bias enrolling 1188 women. DHEA use was not associated with significant improvement in libido or sexual function (standardized mean difference, 0.35; 95% confidence interval, -0.02 to 0.73; P value = .06; I(2) = 62%). There was also no significant effect of DHEA on serious adverse effects, serum lipids, serum glucose, weight, body mass index, or bone mineral density. This evidence warranted low confidence in the results, mostly due to imprecision, risk of bias, and inconsistency across RCTs.

Conclusions: Evidence warranting low confidence suggests that DHEA administration does not significantly impact sexual symptoms or selected metabolic markers in postmenopausal women with normal adrenal function.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Glands / drug effects*
  • Adrenal Glands / physiology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / drug effects*
  • Postmenopause / physiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sexuality / drug effects*
  • Sexuality / physiology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone