Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) was fed at 0.1–0.4% in the diet to genetically diabetic (db/db) or obese (ob/ob) C57BL/KsJ (BL/Ks) or C57BL/6J (BL/6) mice. Treatment of BL/Ks-db/db or oblob mice with 0.4% DHEA prevented hyperglycemia, islet atrophy, and severe diabetes associated with this inbred background, but did not affect weight gain and food consumption. Homozygous obese (ob) or diabetes (do) mice on the BL/6 background were more sensitive to DHEA, and the mild, transient hyperglycemia associated with ob or db gene expression on the BL/6 inbred background could be prevented by 0.1% DHEA. Both body weight and food consumption were decreased in BL/6 mutants maintained on 0.1% DHEA whereas this effect was not seen in BL/Ks mutants fed up to 0.4% DHEA. Early therapy with 0.4% DHEA, initiated at 2 wk of age, prevented the development of most diabetes symptoms and decreased the rate of weight gain in pups of all genotypes. In addition to therapeutic effects on both obese mutants, DHEA effected significant changes in an aging study using normal BL/6 female mice. Four weeks of DHEA treatment initiated at 2 yr of age improved glucose tolerance and at the same time reduced plasma insulin to a “younger” level. This suggests that DHEA may act in insulin-resistant mutant mice and in aging normal mice to increase the sensitivity to insulin.

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