7-keto DHEA: What you need to know (fat loss, thyroid, androgens, etc.)

7-keto DHEA is mostly used for fat loss. But is it safe and does it have other benefits as well? Read on.

There are 2 ways to use 7-oxo DHEA. One is orally (as 7-keto DHEA acetate) and the other is topical as just 7-oxo DHEA cream or gel.

The acetate form might slightly change how the body responds (in a good way) to the oral version compared to the topical version.


7-keto DHEA, or 7-oxo DHEA, is naturally found in the body. DHEA is converted to 7alpha and 7beta-hydroxy DHEA via 7-hydroxylation.

DHEA metabolism

7α-OH DHEA is then converted to 7β-OH DHEA by 11β-HSD type 1. This is important because cortisone is converted to cortisol via 11β-HSD1 as well, so via competition, the 7 hydroxy DHEA can lower cortisol levels and have a strong anti-cortisol/anti-catabolic effect.

7α-OH-DHEA has weak estrogenic activity, selectively activating the estrogen receptor ERβ, whereas 7β-OH-DHEA has weak antiestrogenic activity, selectively antagonizing the estrogen receptor ERβ (R).

7-oxo DHEA itself can’t be converted to testosterone or estrogen.

As you can see, DHEA can also increase 7α and 7β-OH-DHEA, so there might be no need to specifically use 7-oxo DHEA. More on that in just a bit.

The skin expresses a lot of 7-hydroxylase, so applying DHEA topically can dramatically boost 7α and 7β-OH-DHEA levels compared to oral use.

Benefits of 7-keto DHEA

7-keto DHEA (and its metabolites, 7α and 7β-OH-DHEA):

  • Is a powerful inducer of thermogenic enzymes such as mitochondrial glycerophosphate dehydrogenase and cytosolic malic enzyme, about 2.5 times more than DHEA (R, R). This is one way how 7-keto DHEA promote fat loss.
  • Is not a biologically active precursor of endogenous androgens or estrogens, so large doses can be used without a concern of increasing estrogen. High doses of DHEA can lead to an excess of estrogen.
  • Increase thyroid hormone T3. T3 then works in synergy with 7-keto DHEA to induce thermogenesis.
    • Group 1 (7-oxo-DHEA 100 mg twice daily) also experienced a significant increase in triiodothyronine (T3) levels compared with Group 2 over the 8-week study period (+17.88 ng/dL vs 2.75 ng/dL; P = 0.04). There were no significant changes in levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) or thyroxine (T4) in either group.” (R)
  • Enhances the immune response to tetanus toxoid and Bordetella pertussis antigens (R).
  • Has strong anti-cortisol effects.
    • 7-oxo DHEA and the 7 hydroxy metabolites prevent dexamethasone-induced apoptosis of mouse thymocytes (cortisol induced atrophy of the thymus gland, which is detrimental to the immune system) (R).
    • 7-oxygenated DHEA metabolites maintain the balance of local cortisol and cortisone concentrations. “Local control of the cortisol/cortisone ratio by 7-oxygenated DHEA metabolites were suggested as a possible factor in some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer´s dementia (Kim et al. 2003, Bičíková et al. 2004, Vaňková et al. 2016) and psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety (Dušková et al. 2015, Hill et al. 2016), schizophrenia (Bičíková et al. 2011) and premenstrual syndrome.” (R)
  • Beneficially regulate the immune system (R).
  • Has anti-inflammatory effects in rats with colitis (gut inflammation), by changing the prostaglandin patterns (R).
  • Has anti-proliferative activity, which means that it has anti-tumor properties (R).
  • Has neuroprotecitve effects (R)
  • May be very helpful in prevention of primary Raynaud’s attacks by increasing the basal metabolic rate and inhibiting vasospasm, preventing cold hands and feet (R).

The only side effect I could come across was when 7-oxo DHEA was used topically.

Topical 7-oxo DHEAA caused a slight drop in T (-12%), which corrected after 100 days and also a significant drop in estradiol (-65%), which didn’t correct after 100 days. This could be seen as good, since it improved the testosterone to estrogen ratio, but I don’t think lower T overall is a good thing.

Also, topical application of 7-oxo DHEA caused a significant increase in epitestosterone (which has anti-androgenic effects), which gradually increased after stopping it (R).

Topical 7-keto DHEA results

The above side effects have only been shown with topical use and not oral, so I still think oral use is fine.

Topical 7-oxo DHEA vs DHEA

The skin contains a lot of the enzyme 7-hydroxylase, which converts DHEA to 7α-OH-DHEA.

Topical DHEA (25mg) has been shown to increase 7β-OH-DHEA 3 fold, whereas 25mg of topical 7-oxo increase 7β-OH-DHEA 3.6 fold (R). Not a big difference.

The first table is the changes in 7 hydroxy DHEA from the DHEA application and the 2nd table is changes in 7 hydroxy DHEA from the 7-oxo DHEA application.

Topical 7-keto DHEA results

If most of 7-oxo DHEA’s benefits come from 7 hydroxy DHEA, then it would make sense to use topical DHEA instead of 7-oxo DHEA to bypass those side effects mentioned above.

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Using topical DHEA will convert to 7 hydroxy DHEA almost as using the same dose of 7-oxo DHEA.

If you don’t want to use DHEA, then read here how to boost it naturally.

I deem a safe dose of topical DHEA to be around 5-10mg daily, which might not be enough to increase 7 hydroxy DHEA that much, maybe 2 fold. However, as DHEA builds up, the increase might be more over time.

So to benefit even more from the pro-metabolic and thermogenic effect of 7-oxo DHEA, I’d combine oral use of 7-keto DHEA with topical DHEA.

If you want to go absolutely nuts on this thermogenic and pro-metabolic stack, I’d add in some thyroid and androsterone as well.

Androsterone has pro-metabolic and thyromimetic effects (R). Androsterone is (or should I say was) injected at 100mg doses for cholesterol-lowering benefits in the past (R). I’d use 1-5mg in conjunction with topical DHEA.

Read here my previous experience with androsterone.

Thyroid stimulates the metabolic rate and increases steroidogenesis, especially the production of androsterone and DHT. It depends on your current temps and heart rate that will determine the dose, but around 10mcg of T3 should be a good starting dose for thermogenesis.

Fat loss and thermogenic stack:

4 thoughts on “7-keto DHEA: What you need to know (fat loss, thyroid, androgens, etc.)”

  1. Hans, if topical dhea is too androgenic (female fine hair growth on neck), would you use 7-keto-dhea for adrenal reserve insufficiency? I’m already taking progesterone, but need something more to help – if not, my doc wants to put me on physiologic (20mg split 5mg 4x/d) hydrocortisone. I’m obviously trying to avoid that. Jarrow pantethine really helps but gives me insomnia if taken daily. Obviously dhea reduces cortisol, so low dose and build slow. The theory is the low dose, would free up the resources for the adrenals to make sufficient cortisol and aldosterone instead. I’ve tried pregnenolone and that didn’t help. I went into an adrenal crisis from thyroid medication, which is how all this came about.
    If yes to the 7-keto-dhea, do you happen to know the physiologic range? Also, the circadian rhythm for proper dosing?

  2. Hi there, Hans! Would it be possible and effective to make your own mixture/tincture, by adding androsterone powder (from capsules) and 7-keto, in for example vodka, and drop it under your tongue. Would appreciate your thoughts. Kind regards, Frederik

    • Hi Frederik,
      Sure thing man. You can either dissolve it in vodka or a bunch of fat so that it goes into the lymphatic system. Both should have good absorption.


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