Many dietary supplements on the market claim to improve your metabolism and boost fat loss.
One of these supplements is 7-keto-dehydroepiandrosterone (7-keto-DHEA) — also known by its brand name 7-Keto.
This article reveals whether 7-keto-DHEA supplements can improve your metabolism and if they’re safe.
7-keto-DHEA is produced naturally in your body from dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone that comes from the adrenal glands located on top of each of your kidneys.
DHEA is one of the most abundant circulating steroid hormones in your body. It functions as a precursor for the male and female sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen (
But unlike DHEA, 7-keto-DHEA does not actively interact with the sex hormones. Therefore, when taken as an oral supplement, it does not increase the amount of them in your blood (
Early studies have suggested that DHEA prevents fat gain in mice due to its thermogenic, or heat-producing, properties (
Thermogenesis is the process by which your body burns calories to produce heat.
One test-tube study found that 7-keto-DHEA was two-and-a-half times more thermogenic than its parent compound DHEA (
This finding led researchers to begin testing the thermogenic properties of 7-keto-DHEA in humans.
7-keto-DHEA showed thermogenic properties in mice, which has led to its investigation as a potential weight loss aid.
To date, only two studies have looked at the effects of 7-Keto on metabolism.
In the first study, researchers randomized people who were overweight to receive a supplement containing 100 mg of 7-Keto or a placebo for eight weeks (8).
While the group receiving the 7-Keto supplement lost significantly more weight than those given a placebo, there was no difference in basal metabolic rate (BMR) between the two groups.
Basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body needs to perform basic functions that sustain life, such as breathing and circulating blood.
However, in another study, 7-Keto was found to increase the resting metabolic rate (RMR) of people who were overweight (
RMR is less accurate than BMR at estimating the number of calories your body needs to sustain life, but it’s still a useful measure of metabolism.
The study found that 7-Keto not only prevented the decrease in metabolism that’s normally associated with a reduced-calorie diet but also increased metabolism by 1.4% above baseline levels (
This translated to an extra 96 calories burned per day — or 672 calories per week.
Yet, differences in weight loss between the two groups were insignificant, likely because the study lasted only seven days.
While these results suggest that 7-Keto may have the potential to increase metabolism, more research is needed.
Only two studies have looked at the effects of 7-Keto on metabolism. One suggests that 7-Keto may prevent the decline in metabolism associated with dieting and even increase it beyond baseline, but more research is needed.
Owing to its metabolism-boosting properties, 7-Keto may aid weight loss.
In one eight-week study in 30 overweight people on a calorie-restricted diet who exercised three days per week, those receiving 200 mg per day of 7-Keto lost 6.3 pounds (2.88 kg), compared to a 2.1-pounds (0.97-kg) weight loss in the placebo group (10).
In a similar study in overweight people, researchers looked at the effects of a supplement containing 7-keto-DHEA combined with seven other ingredients thought to have an additive effect on 7-keto-DHEA (8).
While all participants adhered to a reduced-calorie diet and exercised three days per week, those who received the supplement lost significantly more weight (4.8 pounds or 2.2 kg) than people in the placebo group (1.6 pounds or 0.72 kg).
Yet, it’s unclear whether this effect can be attributed to 7-Keto alone.
When combined with a calorie-restricted diet and exercise, 7-Keto has been shown to result in significant weight loss, though only a limited number of studies has been conducted.
7-Keto is likely safe and has a low risk of serious side effects.
One study showed that the supplement was well-tolerated in men at doses up to 200 mg per day for four weeks (
Most 7-keto-DHEA supplements on the market contain 100 mg per serving and commonly recommend taking two servings per day with food (12).
Other studies in both men and women have found some adverse effects, including heartburn, metallic taste and nausea (8,
Despite its relatively safe track record as a supplement, there are other considerations to keep in mind if you choose to try 7-Keto.
Banned by WADA
7-keto-DHEA supplements have been suggested to trigger positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs (
As such, the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) has listed the supplement as a prohibited anabolic agent (14).
WADA is responsible for the World Anti-Doping Code, which provides a framework for anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sports organizations.
To date, more than 660 sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), have implemented this code (15).
Thus, if you’re involved in sports and subject to performance-enhancing drug tests, you should avoid taking 7-keto-DHEA supplements.
Can Affect Hormones When Used as a Gel
While 7-Keto does not affect hormone levels in your body when taken as an oral supplement, it may influence them if applied to the skin as a gel.
Several studies have shown that when applied to the skin, 7-Keto can affect sex hormones, cholesterol and thyroid function in men. It remains unknown how 7-Keto gel affects women (
For safety reasons, consult with your doctor or pharmacist before trying 7-Keto as a gel.
7-Keto is generally well-tolerated with a low risk of side effects. However, it’s banned by WADA and may influence hormones in men when applied to the skin as a gel.
7-Keto is a popular supplement thought to boost metabolism and aid weight loss.
Studies suggest that it may be effective when used alongside a reduced-calorie diet and exercise.
7-keto-DHEA supplements are banned by WADA for use in sports and may influence hormones in men when applied to the skin as a gel.
Despite these concerns, the evidence is still too limited to recommend 7-Keto for boosting your metabolism or losing weight.