DHEA vs 7-Oxo-DHEA For Fat Loss
Dehydroepiandrosterone has been sold as a nutritional supplement for quite some time now, long before prohormones started coming out. It has been sold with so many purposes its hard to keep track. It was marketed as the next fountain of youth, as so many things are these days, and to little or no avail. In the bodybuilding community it was briefly promoted as a muscle-gaining supplement, since it was a precursor to testosterone, but to little or no avail.
DHEA was never really specifically marketed as a fat loss supplement. Now, several years later, products are popping up left and right promoting an analog, 7-oxo-DHEA for fat loss.
This is however the most utterly stupid thing I have ever heard. 7-oxo-DHEA is quite poor at aiding fat loss, and may actually inhibit it, while the much cheaper and more readily available DHEA is an excellent and often overlooked diet aid. One study (1) that directly compares the effects of DHEA to 7-oxo-DHEA clearly demonstrates this: cells treated with DHEA had significantly reduced levels fatty acid content, where as cells treated with 7-oxo had significantly increased levels of fatty acids.
This correlated well with the level of expression of stearoyl coA desaturase (SCD1), and may be mediated by changes in this enzyme, as DHEA treated cells had a much lower expression of SCD1, and cells treated with 7-oxo had considerably elevated levels of SCD1. DHEA also inhibited differentiation of pre-adipocytes into adipocytes, probably through a reduction in the proliferation and differentiation factor PPARgamma (3), and the study also demonstrated that DHEA had a thermogenic effect in already differentiating cells, whereas 7-oxo promoted differentiation with no effect on thermogenesis at all.
This is corroborated in another study (2) that shows that DHEA increases expression of UCP1 and UCP3 in fat cells. Since every fat cell expressing UCP1 is by definition a brown fat cell, we can conclude that next to inhibiting the differentiation of pre-adipocytes into new fat cells, it also turns differentiating and differentiated fat cells into brown fat cells.
Brown fat cells are thermogenically active and contribute to the process of burning calories. Thanks to their expression of UCP1 they also manage to uncouple this process from energy production. A brown fat cell produces more heat than energy, meaning more calories are burned for the same amount of energy produced. So not only does DHEA prevent the formation of new fat cells, those that are formed are metabolically active, while 7-oXo has no such effects at all and invariably leads to a higher level of fat in the cell.
One the supposed benefits touted for 7-oxo by supplement manufacturers is its ability to inhibit cortisol formation (4) more so than DHEA. This very thing is its major downside. Cortisol is only adipogenic in visceral fat. When on a diet, visceral fat is the easiest and fastest to be mobilized. A correct diet will not allow for visceral fat gain at all. Cortisol is highly lipolytic in all other tissues however, meaning you lose a considerable ally in the war on fat.
This suppression of cortisol is most likely why 7-oxo treated cells have a much higher fat content and why it doesn't inhibit differentiation. Furthermore DHEA also has distinct roles in enhancing beta-adrenergic mediated fat loss (5) and as a neuro-active steroid it lowers food intake (6).
The combination of all these effects make fat loss probably the best supported and documented role for DHEA, more so than any other purpose it was previously marketed for, while its analog 7-oxo-DHEA is currently marketed for that very purpose, while it actually decreases fat loss through several different pathways.
- Gomez FE, Miyazaki M, Kim YC, Marwah P, Lardy HA, Ntambi JM, Fox BG. Molecular differences caused by differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes in the presence of either dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or 7-oxo-DHEA. Biochemistry. 2002 Apr 30;41(17):5473-82.
- Ryu JW, Kim MS, Kim CH, Song KH, Park JY, Lee JD, Kim JB, Lee KU. DHEA administration increases brown fat uncoupling protein 1 levels in obese OLETF rats. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Apr 4;303(2):726-31.
- Kajita K, Ishizuka T, Mune T, Miura A, Ishizawa M, Kanoh Y, Kawai Y, Natsume Y, Yasuda K. Dehydroepiandrosterone down-regulates the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma in adipocytes. Endocrinology. 2003 Jan;144(1):253-9.
- Hampl R, Lapcik O, Hill M, Klak J, Kasal A, Novacek A, Sterzl I, Sterzl J, Starka L. 7-Hydroxydehydroepiandrosterone--a natural antiglucocorticoid and a candidate for steroid replacement therapy? Physiol Res. 2000;49 Suppl 1:S107-12.
- Tagliaferro AR, Ronan AM, Payne J, Meeker LD, Tse S. Increased lipolysis to beta-adrenergic stimulation after dehydroepiandrosterone treatment in rats. Am J Physiol. 1995 Jun;268(6 Pt 2):R1374-80.
- Wright BE, Svec F, Porter JR. Central effects of dehydroepiandrosterone in Zucker rats. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1995 Dec;19(12):887-92.
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