Role of hormones in the pathogenesis and management of sarcopenia

Drugs Aging. 2002;19(11):865-77. doi: 10.2165/00002512-200219110-00004.


There is growing evidence to indicate that age-related declines in growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, and androgen and estrogen production play a role in the pathogenesis of sarcopenia (an age-related decline in muscle mass and quality). Although GH supplementation has been reported to increase lean body mass in elderly individuals, the high incidence of adverse effects combined with a very high cost has limited the applicability of this form of therapy. The assessment of an alternative approach to enhance the GH/IGF-1 axis in the elderly by using GH-releasing hormone and other secretagogues is currently under way and is showing some promise. Testosterone replacement therapy may increase muscle mass and strength and decrease body fat in hypogonadal elderly men. Long-term randomised, controlled trials are needed, however, to better define the risk-benefit ratio of this form of therapy before it can be recommended. Available data are currently insufficient to decide what role estrogen replacement therapy may play in the management of sarcopenia. Therefore, although the evidence linking age-related hormonal changes to the development of sarcopenia is rapidly growing, it is still too early to determine the clinical utility of hormonal supplementation in the management of sarcopenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / therapeutic use
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Human Growth Hormone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Muscular Atrophy / drug therapy*
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Estrogens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Testosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone
  • pegvisomant