Effect of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on Diabetes Mellitus and Obesity

Vitam Horm. 2018:108:355-365. doi: 10.1016/bs.vh.2018.01.008. Epub 2018 Mar 2.


Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by an impaired capacity to secrete insulin, insulin resistance, or both. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, has been reported to have beneficial effects on diabetes mellitus and obesity in animal models. DHEA and DHEA-sulfate (DHEA-S) have been reported to increase not only insulin secretion of the pancreas but also insulin sensitivity of the liver, adipose tissue, and muscle. We investigated the effects of DHEA on glucose metabolism in animal models and reported decrease of liver gluconeogenesis. Recently, we reported the effect of DHEA on the liver and muscle by using insulin-stimulated insulin receptor substrate 1 and 2 (IRS1 and IRS2)-deficient mice. DHEA increased Akt phosphorylation in the liver of C57BL6 IRS1- and IRS2-deficient mice fed with a high-fat diet (HFD), which suggests that the increase in DHEA-induced Akt signaling is sufficient in the presence of IRS1 or IRS2. In addition, other studies have also reported the effect of DHEA on diabetes mellitus in the liver, muscle, adipose tissue, and pancreatic β-cell and its effect on obesity in animal models. A meta-analysis in elderly men and women has found that DHEA supplementation has no effects on blood glucose levels. However, DHEA supplementation to patients with type 2 diabetes has not been fully elucidated. Therefore, further studies are needed to provide greater insight into the effect of DHEA on diabetes and obesity in animal and human models.

Keywords: DHEA; DHEA-S; Diabetes mellitus; Gluconeogenesis; Liver; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / administration & dosage
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / physiology*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate