Supplementing with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may help reduce abdominal fat that increases with age and is associated with insulin resistance and atherosclerosis, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.* DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that declines with advancing age, had previously been found to shrink abdominal fat in laboratory animals, but its effect on humans has not been confirmed.
Dennis T. Villareal, MD, and John O. Holloszy, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis randomly selected 28 men and 28 women aged 65 to 78 to receive 50 mg per day of DHEA or a placebo for six months. Visceral abdominal fat, which occurs within the abdomen, and subcutaneous fat, which exists under the skin, were measured by magnetic resonance imaging before and after the treatment period. Glucose and insulin responses were determined by administering oral glucose tolerance tests.
At the study’s conclusion, participants who received DHEA had experienced significant losses in visceral and subcutaneous fat. Women who received DHEA lost an average of 10.2% of their visceral fat, while men lost an average of 7.4%. Subcutaneous fat loss averaged 6% for men and women. Those who received a placebo gained small amounts of both types of fat.
DHEA also improved insulin action. No significant adverse events were reported, and DHEA did not cause an elevation in the male subjects’ prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.
The study authors concluded, “These findings provide evidence that DHEA replacement may partially reverse the aging-related accumulation of abdominal fat in elderly people with low serum levels of DHEAS [DHEA-sulfate]. They also raise the possibility that long-term DHEA replacement therapy might reduce the accumulation of abdominal fat and protect against development of the metabolic/insulin resistance syndrome.”