Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is synthesized in the adrenal glands, liver, testes, and brain. This substance is converted to androstenedione, which is the precursor to other androgens, and improves insulin sensitivity. DHEA levels begin declining at approximately age 25. Studies have indicated that DHEA supplementation improves insulin sensitivity and decreases both subcutaneous and visceral fat.56 Specifically, animal studies have shown that DHEA decreases both body weight and the cytokine TNF-alpha, which is implicated in causing insulin resistance.57 A six-month study on adults showed that DHEA supplementation at 100 mg per day increased IGF-1. However, only the male subjects had decreased fat-body mass and increased muscle strength. Women had increases in total-body mass and had androgen levels that were above normal. No changes were seen in cortisol levels, lipid profiles, glucose levels, fasting insulin levels, bone-mineral density, or basal metabolic rates.58
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