Fat can be very sexy and appealing. It presents itself in many provocative disguises. Just check out your local bakery,
and you'll find pastries that look as if they were made in heaven - even though they contain enough fat to condemn you
to an existence in hell. The taste is so gratifying that you find yourself wanting just a little more. Without knowing
it, you have consumed a killing portion of this greasy land useless substance. It kills your appearance by covering
muscles and accumulating in baggy pockets. If you don't resist its epicurean delights, it will eventually kill you by
contributing to heart disease, diabetes and possibly cancer. What's a body to do?
IN SEARCH OF A MAGIC BULLET
We all know the drill by heart. Exercise, restrict calories, and eat low-fat foods to keep bodyfat under control. For
some of us, though, the flesh is weak. We can't exercise as much as we know we should, and we just naturally love to
eat - especially the occasional fat-laced desserts. Sometimes we think we would pay a king's ransom if there were
something that we could take which would make the bodyfat go away.
Such substances do exist, but they are far from perfect. Drugs have been developed that suppress appetite and thereby
reduce caloric intake. These drugs are controlled substances that can only be obtained from a doctor because of their
addictive nature. They also have undesirable side effects and lose their effectiveness after a few short weeks. Although
they are initially effective at keeping the appetite at bay, the body overrides their effects and old eating habits are
Another class of drugs can make the body less efficient at storing excess calories from food. These drugs can decrease
energy efficiency and cause the body to mobilize fat stores for additional energy. They too have undesirable side effects
and lose their effectiveness overtime. Because of these pitfalls none of these thugs are suitable for the long-term
control of bodyfat.
There is one substance that shows real promise as being a safe and effective fat buster. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
is a natural metabolite produced by the body. When it was initially given to mice as an experimental treatment for cancer,
it was found to not only result in the mice developing fewer tumors, but the mice taking DHEA lost bodyfat. Since these
early experiments it has been found that people with higher levels of bodyfat have less DHEA than thinner people.
Furthermore, DHEA has been found to decrease as we age, and, as you well know, we gain bodyfat as we age.
HOW DOES DHEA WORK?
DHEA is asteroid hormone formed during the production of the sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. It is
initially made from cholesterol and is similar to the adrenal steroids. The adrenal glands and gonads release it into the
circulation where it is the most abundant steroid in the blood of normal humans.
Much of our current knowledge of DHEA comes from animal studies. When animals were given DHEA in their diet, it did not
affect their appetite. It did affect the synthesis of fatty acids and overall amounts of bodyfat. The effect was so
profound that, if given to starved animals that were later fed food rich in fat, the DHEA blocked fat synthesis and the
animals remained thin. To better understand how this amazing compound works, scientists looked at the energy-producing
centers found in cells. At first they thought that DHEA restricted the amount of energy available for fat synthesis. To
their surprise, after 21 days of DHEA treatments, there was a 20 percent increase in Oxygen use by the body. Although this
showed that energy restriction was not what blocked fat synthesis, it did show that DHEA was also burning excess fat in
the process. Part of this energy was shown to be used in the synthesis and deposition of protein, both of which require
large amounts of energy. In fact, it takes more energy to make protein than it does to make fat.
The site of this oxygen consumption and fat breakdown is in small pockets within the liver cells, called peroxisomes. The
excess DHEA causes them to proliferate and work overtime. It seems the purpose of the peroxisomes is to neutralize unwanted
compounds and they use oxygen to break down fats, which are used as a source of energy. In this it is the DHEA that is
being inactivated. The liver senses that the body does not need excess amounts of this substance floating around in the
blood, so it activates its drug-metabolizing enzymes contained in peroxisomes. The beauty of this phenomenon is that it
is an energy-wasting process that does not trap the energy in high-energy compounds, such as ATP (the body's main source
of energy). All this energy is simply released as heat, which is removed from the body. In essence, the fat evaporates into
DHEA may also affect the production of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone can stimulate protein synthesis, fat breakdown
and oxygen consumption. It is known that people who produce excess thyroid hormone are thin, while those who produce too
little are fat.
THE FUTURE OF DHEA
When 1.6g of DHEA was given to overweight men on a daily basis for four weeks, there was no observed weight loss. However,
when the same dose was given to men with normal weights, they did lose weight. Such conflicting results show the urgent
need for additional human studies to address the many questions that need to be answered about DHEA and weight loss.
Since overweight people produce less DHEA, the overweight men may have not received a sufficient amount to elicit a
physiological response. The leaner men probably have more DHEA to start with and thus supplementation above the normal
levels did the trick. Also, a single daily dose is probably not the appropriate way to give UHEA. The reported success in
earlier animal studies has used DHEA based on bodyweight. By the same reasoning one would expect a person who weighs more
to need a larger dose than a person who weighs less. It would also help to know what the initial blood levels of DHEA were.
This information would allow the dosage to be given based on a person's individual need, since no two people's bodies are
alike. Finally, we do not know how fast DHEA is metabolized in the body. Several daily doses may be needed to maintain
effective levels for a longer period of time. These questions must be answered to determine if DHEA is a safe and effective
product for stripping away excess bodyfat.
A BODYBUILDER'S DREAM
One major obstacle bodybuilders must overcome is getting cut without losing muscle mass. During their precontest cuts
phase they rely on a strict diet and lots of aerobics to strip away the layers of fat that cover their hard-gained muscles.
In doing so, they often lose some muscle along with the fat.
DHEA would allow one to burn away less bodyfat without having to go on a calorie-restricted diet. This would virtually
eliminate the cuts cycle and allow mass-building to continue until contest time. And when you thought it couldn't get any
better than this, remember that most of the energy used in burning fat is then used to add protein and lean muscle. It may
be that, DHEA is used by the body to make testosterone, it may have some anabolic properties also.
So would this make DHEA an anabolic steroid? Not necessarily. Anabolic steroids e synthetic forms of testosterone that have
been chemically modified to have their anabolic properties enhanced.
These modifications result in the many dangerous side effects reported with steroid use. Since DHEA is a natural, or
unmodified, compound that is naturally found in the body, its chances of causing health concerns would be much less.
TIME WILL TELL
The great potential for this compound to be a safe weight-loss compound will surely result in further studies to learn if
it should be made available as a weight-control drug. Because being overweight is a major health concern, and the public
desires to have a safe aid in the battle for weight loss, much medical research is devoted to this area.
Currently we must continue to use the principles of diet and exercise to maintain our weight. But perhaps one day in the
near future someone will develop a magic potion that will release us from the clutches of the mistress fat.