7-Keto DHEA is a hormone produced in the brain, kidneys, and reproductive organs. Although similar to its cousin, DHEA, 7-keto acts differently in the body. The research is still very limited, but points to numerous possible health benefits of 7-keto DHEA as a nootropic, for PTSD and depression, as well as for lifespan extension. Read on to learn more.
What is 7-Keto DHEA?
Adrenals, located at the top of the kidneys, produce hormones that play diverse roles in the body. One of these hormones is DHEA, which is the most abundant steroid in our bodies. DHEA and its derivatives are produced in the kidney glands, reproductive organs, and brain from cholesterol [1, 2].
DHEA is used in the body to make other hormones: weak estrogens (androstenediol) and powerful androgens. DHEA is also used to make 7-Keto DHEA (chemically speaking, by joining a hydroxyl group). DHEA can either be made into sex hormones or 7-Keto, but not both [1, 3].
7-Keto DHEA vs. DHEA
DHEA is a hormone made by the body, which can be transformed into 7-keto. Although 7-Keto DHEA and DHEA are similar, they can have different effects. 7-Keto may have more psychological effects than DHEA, without influencing sex hormones. DHEA, on the other hand, achieves many effects by raising hormone levels because it can be converted to sex hormones – androgens. The research on both is still limited [4, 5].
Mechanism of Action
Are there specific “receptors” in the body DHEA binds to? For over 20 years scientists have tried to answer this question, which is still largely a mystery. There are proteins in the liver (PPAR-alpha, estrogen, and GABA) that bind to DHEA, but not much more is known .
Since DHEA and sex hormones decline with aging, many have referred to DHEA as the “fountain of youth.” But unlike DHEA, 7-keto cannot be used in the body to make sex hormones. Instead, 7-Keto is used for cell metabolism and by the brain. And while there is only some overlap between the effects of DHEA and 7-Keto, other 7-keto effects are very different [6, 7]:
DHEA and its derivatives activate PPAR alpha. In one study mice with inactive PPAR-alpha gene took DHEA and were able to produce peroxisomes. It turns out that DHEA and its derivatives like 7-keto can all “turn on” the PPAR-alpha gene [9, 10, 11].
Benefits of 7-Keto
1) Boosts Fat Burning
In one study 33, healthy but overweight adults (12 men and 21 women 40-69 years old) received 7-Keto DHEA supplements for 8 weeks. They received 200 mg per day. 7-keto along with diet and exercise reduced weight more than just diet and exercise with no adverse effects .
7-Keto may benefit inactive overweight people. In a study of 40 subjects (30 women and 10 men with an average age of 38), 7 days of 7-keto was used both alone and in combination with other supplements (green tea extract, vitamin C, chromium, and vitamin D3). Both increased the metabolic rate, helping to burn more calories. The overweight patients were also on a calorie-restricted diet .
In mice, 7-Keto increased weight loss in fully grown mice. 7-keto lowers appetite, which is crucial for weight loss .
2) Reduces Cortisol and Protects Blood Vessels
Cortisol levels will increase after a short period of stress, but may rapidly fall if the stress is prolonged. In one study, 7-Keto (25 mg single doses) gel was applied to the skin of 10 healthy men. After five days the cortisol levels decreased by 7.4% .
What’s more, 7-keto also reduced testosterone and estradiol levels and increased LH, HDL-cholesterol, and apolipoprotein A-I in the same study – overall reducing the risk for clogged arteries and heart disease, especially in older men. It didn’t have any effects on other hormones, making it a safe alternative to DHEA .
3) May Boost Reproductive Health In Men
Two studies indicate that 7-keto may boost male reproductive health.
In one study of 21 healthy male volunteers (ages 20-70), 25 mg of 7-keto in the form of a gel for 8 days reduced testosterone levels after the first application. More than a month after treatment, the men also had reduced estrogen and testosterone levels, while epitestosterone levels increased.7-keto seems to have both short-term and delayed effects on hormones in men .
In a cell study, 7-Keto increased the production of sperm in the cells that make sperm (Sertoli cells) .
4) May Help with PTSD
5) May Boost Memory
In one study, 7-Keto improved memory in both young and old mice with memory impairment. The effect was much stronger in young mice, in which 7-Keto completely reversed memory loss .
6) May Boost Immune Response
In one study, adding 7-keto during an immune response caused a quick replication of monocytes, the pathogen-engulfing white blood cells. This indicates that 7-keto could boost the immune response [23, 24].
T lymphocytes are white blood cells that develop in the thymus gland. T lymphocytes alter their responses to specific pathogens making them essential for fighting pathogens. A study found that 7-keto activates a receptor on T lymphocytes. The activation of the receptor helps replication that is essential for the immune response [25, 26].
7) May Reduce Depression and Improve Thyroid Function
In one study, chronic mild stress reduced the T3 levels, T4 levels, and immune response (T cells) in depressed mice. 7-keto the reduced depressive symptoms and restored T3, T4, and immune cell levels to normal .
8) Helps Reduce Alcohol Abuse
7-Keto DHEA shows promise for helping people with alcohol abuse. In one study, 7-Keto DHEA reduced the alcohol-seeking behavior, which reinforces over-drinking, and alcohol blood levels in mice .
In another rat study, 7-Keto DHEA reduced alcohol intake. In fact, 7-Keto had a stronger effect than DHEA at the same doses .
7-Keto was found to be safe at 200 mg doses (gradually increased from 50 mg) for four weeks in one study of 22 healthy men. No hormone, blood or urine marker, or vital sign side effects were reported .
In postmenopausal women, 50 mg doses per day for 52 weeks were determined to be safe with no side effects .
200 mg per day was safe in healthy males for 4 weeks .
Another study administered 200 mg of a combination product containing 7-keto daily to overweight adults for 8 weeks with no side effects .
Older men received 25 mg of 7-keto daily in the form of a gel applied to the skin .
Forms of Supplementation
7-keto is commonly sold in 100 mg and 25 mg pills. It can also be found in a powder supplement form, as a topical gel, or combined with other compounds.
One study found that the 7-keto concentration is dependent on the production and activity of 11β-HSD1 and H6PDH, which are involved in energy metabolism and the immune response. Because of this, those with a higher concentration of these two molecules will also have a higher 7-keto concentration .
Limitations and Caveats
The biological functions, role in disease, and mechanism of action of 7-Keto DHEA are still under investigation. The clinical trials on 7-Keto DHEA are very limited and have not studied its long-term use. Studies done on rats and mice may not continue to hold true in humans .
Many users praise the ability of 7-keto to boost weight loss. One user said that it was the fastest and easiest way that they have found to lose weight – they were unable to exercise, but ate healthily and lost weight after taking 7-Keto.
Reviewers say that 7-keto is a more effective supplement for weight loss, while DHEA is more effective at reducing menopause symptoms and aging.