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DHEA Supplement Helps Reduce Abdominal Fat

A study published in the November 10 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that supplementing with the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), may help reduce the abdominal fat that increases with age and is associated with insulin resistance and atherosclerosis. DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that declines with aging, 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 Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, randomized 28 men and 28 women aged 65 to 78 to receive 50 milligrams per day 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 (MRI) before and following the treatment period, and 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 of visceral and subcutaneous fat. Women who received DHEA lost an average of 10.2 percent visceral fat, and men lost an average of 7.4 percent. Subcutaneous fat loss averaged 6 percent for men and women. Those who received placebos gained small amounts of fat in both areas.

DHEA also improved insulin action. No significant adverse events were associated with DHEA, and the hormone did not cause an elevation in the male participants' prostate specific antigen levels. The authors write, "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. 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.”


Journal of the American Medical Association (292, 18:2243-2248, 2004).

Key concepts: dhea, abdominal fat