Objectives: To investigate the effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) combined with exercise on bone mass, strength, and physical function in older, frail women.
Design: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Setting: A major medical institution.
Participants: Ninety-nine women (mean age 76.6 ± 6.0) with low sulfated DHEA (DHEAS) levels, low bone mass, and frailty.
Intervention: Participants received 50 mg/d DHEA or placebo for 6 months; all received calcium and cholecalciferol. Women participated in 90-minute twice-weekly exercise regimens.
Measurements: Hormone levels, bone mineral density (BMD), bone turnover markers, body composition, upper and lower extremity strength, physical performance.
Results: Eighty-seven women (88%) completed 6 months. There were no significant changes in BMD or bone turnover markers. DHEA supplementation resulted in gains in lower extremity strength (from 459 ± 121 N to 484 ± 147 N; P=.01). There was also improvement in Short Physical Performance Battery score, a composite score that focuses on lower extremity function, in those taking DHEA (from 10.1 ± 1.8 to 10.7 ± 1.9; P=.02). There were significant changes in all hormone levels, including DHEAS, estradiol, estrone, and testosterone, and a decline in sex hormone-binding globulin levels in those taking DHEA.
Conclusion: DHEA supplementation improved lower extremity strength and function in older, frail women involved in a gentle exercise program of chair aerobics or yoga. No changes were found in BMD either due to small sample size, short duration of study or no effect. The physical function findings are promising and require further evaluation as frail women are at high risk for falls and fracture.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00664053.
© 2010, Copyright the Authors. Journal compilation © 2010, The American Geriatrics Society.