Another day, another weight-loss supplement. One of the latest is 7-Keto, which has enjoyed soaring sales due to its promotion on The Dr. Oz Show in a segment called “belly-blasters in a bottle.”
Also called 7-Keto DHEA, the substance is a breakdown product of DHEA, a steroid hormone produced in the body. DHEA declines with age and, thus, so does 7-Keto.
Proponents of the supplement claim that this “dramatic” drop in 7-Keto is what causes people to gain weight as they get older—and that taking 7-Keto will help them lose weight by boosting thermogenesis (the process that turns calories into heat), increasing activity of enzymes that stimulate fat oxidation in the liver, and increasing thyroid activity.
Not surprisingly, promoters of the supplement say that everyone middle-aged and older should take this supplement to restore youthful levels of 7-Keto. And if you take it while you diet, this will supposedly counter the slowing of metabolism that occurs when you cut calories.
The website for 7-Keto lists three studies, all of which were supported or sponsored by Humanetics, the exclusive patent-holder for the supplement ingredient. All report favorable effects of 7-Keto, compared to a placebo—including greater weight loss (about fiveto six pounds versus about twopounds, on average) and increased metabolism in people who took the supplement while also following a diet and exercise program.
But the studies were very small and lasted no more than two months, so it’s unknown if any weight-loss effects would continue over time. And the results were highly variable. One study tested 7-Keto only in combination with a hodgepodge of other compounds, so it’s impossible to know which ingredient (or combination) was responsible for the observed effects. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, there is “insufficient reliable evidence” that 7-Keto has beneficial effects against obesity.
What about safety?
Unlike DHEA, which is also marketed for weight loss and as an “anti-aging” supplement, 7-Keto does not seem to convert to sex hormones (like estrogen and testosterone) in the body, so it is thought to be safer. In one very small study, there was no indication that oral 7-Keto altered blood levels of these hormones over seven days, while another small study found no hormonal effect from using a 7-Keto skin patch for eight days.
But there are no data on its long-term use. It’s possibly safe, but who really knows? Keep in mind, too, that while DHEA and 7-Keto decline with age, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s possible this natural decline protects health in some as yet undetermined way.