One alternative to straight testosterone replacement is to boost the levels of the hormones that stimulate testosterone production instead. DHEA , for example, is a “parent hormone” made in the adrenal gland and testes, which changes into testosterone in men and estrogen in women. One solution to low testosterone is DHEA supplements , which naturally raise the body’s testosterone levels. The advantage is that the body never slows its own efforts to make the hormone the way it does with testosterone replacement, and it doesn’t require some of the difficult, often messy delivery systems (transdermal gels or pellets) that testosterone does. According to clinical integrative pharmacist Scott Berliner, the possibility of abnormally low levels of DHEA is worth investigating when someone is suffering from low T, something traditional physicians may overlook. “If a 45-year-old man comes in with a level of 200, they give you testosterone. End of story. In the integrative model, we’re always looking for the cause of things.” And often the cause is a deficiency in DHEA. According to the National Institutes of Health, raising the body’s level of DHEA can increase sexual function and may build muscle mass. There’s a reason it’s banned by the NCAA. Taking the supplemental hormone in high doses and for long periods of time is not recommended, as that can exacerbate side effects.
To search for possible metabolites of DHEA that might have greater biological activity, greater specificity, and fewer propensities to form sex hormones, Dr. Lardy initiated a program assaying the derivatives of DHEA. The activity of 150 of these metabolites was monitored by measuring the induction of two thermogenic enzymes, mitochondrial glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase and cytosolic malic enzyme. The results of this landmark study were published in the journal Steroids in 1998  and revealed that many of these steroids did not induce the activity of these thermogenic enzymes, whereas the 7-keto-DHEA metabolite did. In fact, 7-keto-DHEA was times more active than DHEA at inducing the activity of these thermogenic enzymes. In later work by Marenich,  it was discovered that the urinary excretion of 7-keto-DHEA declines with age in a similar manner to its parent compound, DHEA. Based on these discovered advantages, the 7-keto-DHEA metabolite was chosen for further study as a weight loss ingredient.