Objectives: The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the relative efficacy of the sublingual administration of micronized estradiol (E2), progesterone (P4), and testosterone (T) on bone mineral density and biochemical markers of bone metabolism.
Design: In this double-blind, prospective study, postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: hysterectomized women were assigned to either 1) micronized E2 (0.5 mg) or 2) micronized E2 (0.5 mg) + micronized T (1.25 mg). Women with intact uteri were assigned to either 3) micronized E2 (0.5 mg) + micronized P4 (100 mg) or 4) micronized E2 (0.5 mg) + micronized P4 (100 mcg) + micronized T (1.25 mg). For the purpose of this study, the four treatment groups were combined into two groups for all comparisons. The E2 and E2+P4 groups were combined into the HRT alone group (n=30), and the E2+T and E2+P4+T groups were combined into the HRT + T group (n=27). Hormones were administered sublingually as a single tablet twice a day for 12 months. Bone mineral density was measured in the anterior-posterior lumbar spine and total left hip via dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Bone metabolism was assessed via serum bone-specific alkaline phosphatase and urinary deoxypyridinoline and cross-linked N-telopeptide of type I collagen, both normalized to creatinine. Data were analyzed via a repeated measures analysis of variance and a Student's t test (alpha=0.05).
Results: The subjects were of similar age (54.0 +/- 0.8 years), height (64.0 +/- 0.3 in), weight (157.6 +/- 4.2 lb), and had similar baseline follicle-stimulating hormone (66.4 +/- 3.2 mIU/L), E2 (26.4 +/- 1.5 pg/ml), P4 (0.3 +/- 0.1 ng/ml), total T (19.0 +/- 1.5 ng/dL), and bioavailable T (3.7 +/- 0.3 ng/dL) levels. During therapy, serum levels increased (p < 0.05) for each hormone. Bone mineral density and bone markers at baseline were similar for each treatment group. Bone-specific alkaline phosphatase decreased (p < 0.05) by -14.3 +/- 4.1% in the HRT alone group and by -8.2 +/- 4.6% in the HRT + T group. Deoxypyridinoline levels decreased significantly in the HRT alone and HRT + T groups, - 14.4 +/- 6.8% and -26.9 +/- 7.6%, respectively. Significant reductions (p < 0.05) in cross-linked N-telopeptide of type I collagen were also observed in both groups, -24.4 +/- 6.5% and -39.5 +/- 8.6%, respectively. Bone mineral density in the lumbar spine increased (p < 0.05) by +2.2 +/- 0.5% the HRT alone group and by + 1.8 +/- 0.6% in the HRT + T group. Total hip bone mineral density was maintained in the HRT alone group (+0.4 +/- 0.4%) and increased (p < 0.05) in the HRT + T group (+ 1.8 +/- 0.5%).
Conclusions: Sublingual micronized HRT favorably decreases serum and urine markers of bone metabolism, prevents bone loss, and results in a slight increase in spine and hip bone mineral density. Although the addition of testosterone to HRT for 1 year did not result in added benefit to the spine bone mineral density, it did result in a significant increase in hip bone mineral density. Longer duration of therapy may have further improved these outcomes.