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.

DESIGN: 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.

RESULTS: In men, 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. In women, 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.

Keywords: Bone Mineral Density, Dhea, Dehydroepiandrosterone

PMID: 19321570

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