7-Keto DHEA Supplement
Benefits Vs. Side Effects

7-Keto DHEA supplement is said to cause weight loss without the side effects normally associated with steroid hormones. How believable is this?

According to biochemist Stephen Cherniske, DHEA can reverse the effects of aging and help you regain virility. Here's how he introduced this revitalizing hormone in his 1998 paperback The DHEA Breakthrough:


The high energy you enjoyed in your twenties and thirties?

Protection against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis?

Renewed sexual appetite and vigor?

To beat depression, boost your memory, and handle stress?

To lose body fat while building up your lean muscle mass?


Since the late 1990s, DHEA has been the subject of many scientific studies. Fast forward to 2008, perhaps now is the time to examine our understanding of this supposedly wonder drug, especially with regard to its weight loss benefits?

What's DHEA?

DHEA is a short form for dehydroepiandrosterone (pronounced dee-hi-dro-epp-ee-ann-dro-stehr-own). Although it can be consumed orally as a supplement, this hormone is produced internally by the adrenal gland in your own body.

Touted as the "fountain of youth", this hormone peaks in your body peaks at age 20, and may fall by as much as 90% when you reach up to age 90. Although it is the most common steroid hormone in human body, its biological role is not well understood.

The main difficulty is that DHEA converts easily to sex hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone), so it is hard to understand its actions in isolation. Although scientists have not figured out how exactly DHEA functions in our body, it has been shown to have some anti-aging and anti-obesity effects.

Increased Cancer Risk?

The US FDA does not regulate DHEA as a drug, which means the supplement can be obtained by anyone from health stores or over the internet. However, despite its easy access, unsupervised use of this hormone is still considered controversial.

Here's is what the Mayo Clinic says about DHEA:

There is sufficient evidence supporting the use of DHEA in the treatment of adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

There is a lack of available studies on the long-term effects of DHEA. However, DHEA may cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens in the body, and theoretically may increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers.

Therefore, it is not recommended for regular use without supervision by a licensed healthcare professional.

This hormone is considered so controversial that it is currently only available by prescription in Canada. In the US, a bill has been introduced in March 2007 to re-classify DHEA as a controlled substance under the category of anabolic steroids.

So if you are considering buying DHEA over the internet - here is my advice: play it safe, consult your doctor first. Supervised usage is highly recommended.

Introducing 7-Keto!

7-Keto (3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone) is a natural by-product of DHEA.

It is often promoted as containing the full benefits of DHEA without the side effects, as it does not convert to sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Some vendors even claim that "it may be used safely among people with hormone-dependent diseases, including cancer".

Another advantage of 7-Keto DHEA is that it has been shown to have antiobesity properties.

Burn Fat and Lose Weight?

First, let's see what the respectable Mayo Clinic says about DHEA's weight loss effects. They give DHEA a B grade for treating:

  • Adrenal insufficiency

  • Depression

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Obesity

Now, a B grade means "Good scientific evidence for this use". Given that I have found the Mayo Clinic to be conservative in the past, this is quite impressive. They explain further:

The majority of clinical trials investigating the effect of DHEA on weight or fat loss support its use for this purpose. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

That's a good start. A quick scan through studies conducted in recent years reveal further positive results.

Increased Metabolism

A 2007 study conducted by the Minnesota Applied Research Center investigated the use of 7-Keto DHEA alone and in combination of other weight loss substances in overweight individuals.

45 people participated, of whom 40 people completed the 7-day study. On average, they are 39 years old with a mean mass index of 32 kilograms per meter square.

Now, when you diet, your body automatically tries to compensate by burning less energy. This is exactly what happened. The test subjects were put on a restricted diet, which reduced their metabolism.

The scientists wanted to know if consuming 7-Keto would boost their energy level. The test subjects were divided into two groups: those who didn't consume any supplement (placebo), and those who consumed 7-Keto DHEA.

The scientists found that the placebo group had a lower mean metabolism of 3.9% (due to the effect of dieting). Impressively, the 7-Keto DHEA group had a higher mean metabolism of 1.4%.

In other words, 7-Keto DHEA could help you increase metabolism and calorie burning, even when you are on a diet! Now you might ask: How significant is 5.3%?

If you burn 2,000 calories a day, this is roughly 100 calories, or 2.5 pounds over a 3 month period. This is not bad, considering you are also losing more weight by eating less and (hopefully) exercising!

Block Digestion

Another 2007 study conducted by University of Murcia in Spain investigated how DHEA may affect digestion and body composition. Using overweight rats as a model, they discovered the following:

  • DHEA reduced energy intake, body weight, body fat, fat cell size and number.

  • DHEA treated mice were less likely to gain weight when eating a high fat diet.

  • DHEA treated mice were more likely to burn fat and preserve muscle.

The scientists concluded as below:

In conclusion, we confirm the slimming effect of DHEA and, for the first time, we demonstrate that DHEA has an effect at the digestive level.

The anti-obesity properties of DHEA could be related to a reduction in protein digestibility in the short term and a protective effect on body protein with a selective mass loss from body fat.


The above two studies aren't exhaustive, but it does back up Mayo Clinic's claim that DHEA's weight loss effects have "good scientific evidence". However, one important question remains: How safe is 7-Keto DHEA?

Mayo Clinic and other authoritative health sites don't have the answer, as they don't treat 7-Keto any differently from DHEA. So I will quote from two informed sources instead.

For an optimistic view, read Evitamins - an online supplement seller:

A safety study in humans has shown that 7-Keto did not raise estrogen or testosterone levels or produce any other negative effects at levels up to 200 mg per day for eight weeks.

[Reference: Davidson MH, Weeks CE, Lardy H, et al. Safety and endocrine effects of 3-acetyl-7-oxo DHEA (7-keto DHEA). FASEB J 1998;12:A4429]

Short-term animal studies also revealed no adverse effects with large amounts of 7-Keto.

The long-term safety of 7-Keto for humans has not been demonstrated, and, because it is chemically related to steroid hormones, the potential for adverse effects must be considered.

In addition, the increase in T3 levels resulting from taking 7-Keto could, in theory, produce adverse effects on the heart or promote bone loss.

For these reasons, people wishing to take 7-Keto, particularly those who have a thyroid disorder or are taking thyroid hormone, should consult a physician. At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with 7-Keto.

Dr. Ray Sahelian expressed a cautious sentiment:

7-Keto DHEA is a hormone similar to DHEA. Proponents claim that 7-Keto DHEA cannot be metabolized to active androgenic or estrogenic hormones but retains and enhances the immunologic, memory-enhancing and thermogenic effects of DHEA. I find this hard to believe.

The same mechanisms and biochemical pathways that lead to the 7-Keto DHEA benefit they claim, also are involved in causing 7-keto DHEA side effects. I will hold this viewpoint regarding 7-Keto DHEA until I am shown evidence to the contrary.

If 7-Keto DHEA has testosterone like benefits, it is likely that certain 7-Keto DHEA side effects will be due to androgen excess.

Smaller amounts of 7-Keto DHEA may be appropriate to use for specific purposes and for a limited time as long as your health care provider approves. For this reason we have made a 7-Keto DHEA supplement available.

The bottom line?

This supplement has good credentials for promoting weight loss, but despite the manufacturers' claims otherwise (e.g., there are no side effects), you may want to proceed with caution.

My first recommendation is green tea, but if you would like to experiment with 7-Keto DHEA, please speak to your healthcare adviser, and never exceed the recommended dosage!

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Zenk,-J-L; Frestedt,-J-L; Kuskowski,-M-A (2007). HUM5007, a novel combination of thermogenic compounds, and 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone: each increases the resting metabolic rate of overweight adults. J-Nutr-Biochem. 2007 Sep; 18(9): 629-34.

de-Heredia,-F-P; Cerezo,-D; Zamora,-S; Garaulet,-M (2007). Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone on protein and fat digestibility, body protein and muscular composition in high-fat-diet-fed old rats. Br-J-Nutr. 2007 Mar; 97(3): 464-70.

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