[Note: DHEA is produced from cholesterol via a complex process in the adrenal glands. DHEA is a precursor to male (androgen) & female (estrogen) sex hormones, and production declines with age and illness.]
Background: Age-related reductions in serum dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) concentrations may be involved in bone mineral density (BMD) losses.
Objective: The objective was to determine whether DHEA supplementation in older adults improves BMD when co-administered with vitamin D and calcium.
• In year 1, a randomized trial was conducted in which men (n = 55) and women (n = 58) aged 65-75 y took 50 mg/d oral DHEA supplements or placebo.
• In year 2, all participants took open-label DHEA (50 mg/d).
• During both years, all participants received vitamin D (16 mug/d) and calcium (700 mg/d) supplements.
BMD was measured by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Concentrations of hormones and bone turnover markers were measured in serum.
• No difference between groups occurred in any BMD measures or in bone turnover markers during year 1 or year 2.
• The free testosterone index and estradiol increased in the DHEA group only.
• Spine BMD increased by 1.7 +/- 0.6% (P = 0.0003) during year 1 and by 3.6 +/- 0.7% after 2 y of supplementation in the DHEA group;
• However, in the placebo group, spine BMD was unchanged during year 1 but increased to 2.6 +/- 0.9% above baseline during year 2 after the crossover to DHEA.
• Hip BMD did not change.
• Testosterone, estradiol, and insulin-like growth factor 1 increased in the DHEA group only.
• In both groups, serum concentrations of bone turnover markers decreased during year 1 and remained low during year 2, but did not differ between groups.
Conclusion: DHEA supplementation in older women, but not in men, improves spine BMD when co-administered with vitamin D and calcium. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00182975.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Mar 25, 2009. PMID: 19321570, by Weiss EP, Shah K, Fontana L, Lambert CP, Holloszy JO, Villareal DT. Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Sciences, Department of Internal Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine and Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Saint Louis University, St Louis, Missouri, USA; Division of Food Science, Human Nutrition and Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanitá, Rome, Italy. [E-mail: