7 Keto DHEA is available over the counter without a prescription. A September 2007 study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests that overweight people can use this supplement to raise their resting metabolic rate while on calorie-restricted diets. It also suggests there are few side effects. However, this study was limited to three one-week treatments and a handful of participants. Skeptics continue to question product claims that 7 Keto DHEA provides the benefits of DHEA without many of the unwanted side effects.
Male and Female Characteristic Changes
DHEA is known to cause virilism in women, characterized by facial hair growth, a deepening voice, baldness, weight gain in the abdomen and clitoral enlargement. In men, it can cause testicular wasting, breast enlargement and other "feminine" characteristic side effects. That's because DHEA is a precursor to both female and male sex hormones, called estrogens and androgens, that are responsible for male and female characteristics. 7 Keto DHEA is supposed to have a lower conversion rate into these male and female hormones, thus being able to provide benefits without side effects like female virilism or male breast enlargement. However, no long-term studies of any form of DHEA supplement have been conducted, advises the Mayo Clinic, so the potential for side effects still exists.
Using a DHEA supplement has the potential to increase the risk for cancers that are hormone-sensitive, advises the Mayo Clinic. These include breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. Supplementing with DHEA also may increase the risk of prostate enlargement. That's why the Mayo Clinic advises using DHEA supplements only under strict medical supervision.
Skeptic Ray Sahelian, M.D., the author of "Mind Boosters," also urges caution. "The same mechanisms and biochemical pathways that lead to the 7 Keto DHEA benefit they claim, also are involved in causing 7 Keto DHEA side effects. I will hold this viewpoint regarding 7 Keto DHEA until I am shown evidence to the contrary," Sahelian says on his health information website.
General Side Effects
Other side effects that people can experience from taking 7 Keto DHEA may include acne and oily skin due to increased male hormone levels, more perspiration and hair loss or thinning (especially among men), fatigue, headaches, nasal congestion and irregular or rapid heartbeats. Women also may have abnormal menses and insomnia.
Diabetic people are advised by the Mayo Clinic to avoid DHEA supplements, because they can cause increased blood sugar and insulin resistance. DHEA also can alter thyroid hormone levels and adrenal function, so people with endocrine abnormalities also are advised to avoid this supplement.
DHEA has the potential to affect a person's mental state, advises the Mayo Clinic. Men may experience increased aggressiveness. DHEA also may cause anxiety, mood swings, agitation, irritability and even delusions, mania or psychosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.