Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has been suggested to have an anti-obesity effect; however, the mechanism underlying this effect remains unclear. The effect of DHEA on adipocytes opposes that of glucocorticoids, which potentiate adipogenesis. The key to the intracellular activation of glucocorticoids in adipocytes is 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1), which catalyses the production of active glucocorticoids (cortisol in humans and corticosterone in rodents) from an inactive 11-keto form (cortisone in humans and 11-dehydrocorticosterone in rodents). In humans and rodents, intracellular glucocorticoid reactivation is exaggerated in obese adipose tissue. Using differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes, we demonstrated that DHEA inhibited 11β-HSD1 activity at a concentration of 1 μM within 10 min. Inhibition was also observed in a cell-free system comprised of microsomes prepared from rat adipose tissue and NADPH, a coenzyme of 11β-HSD1. A kinetic study revealed that DHEA acted as a non-competitive inhibitor of 11β-HSD1. Further, DHEA did not inhibit 11β-HSD type 2, which inactivates cortisol or corticosterone in tissues involved in water and electrolyte metabolism, in rat kidney microsomes at a concentration <25 μM. Moreover, no conversion from DHEA to other sex steroid hormones or their precursors was observed under the present experimental conditions. These results indicate that the inhibition of 11β-HSD1 by DHEA depends on neither the transcriptional pathway nor the nonspecific manner. This is the first demonstration that DHEA inhibits 11β-HSD1 by non-transcriptional pathway, thereby providing a novel insight into the anti-obesity mechanism of DHEA and serving as an anti-glucocorticoid steroid.