Introduction: Sarcopenia is disproportionately present in older women with disability, and optimum treatment is not clear. We conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial to determine whether oxandrolone administration in elderly women improves body composition or physical function beyond that which occurs in response to progressive resistance training (PRT).
Methods: Twenty-nine sedentary women (age 74.9 ± 6.8 yr; 5.9 ± 2.8 medications per day) were randomized to receive high-intensity PRT (three times a week for 12 wk) combined with either oxandrolone (10 mg·d(-1)) or an identical placebo. Peak strength was assessed for leg press, chest press, triceps, knee extension, and knee flexion. Power was assessed for leg press and chest press. Physical function measures included static and dynamic balance, chair rise, stair climb, gait speed, and 6-min walk test. Body composition was assessed using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry.
Results: Oxandrolone treatment augmented increases in lean tissue for the whole body (2.6 kg; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.0-4.2 kg; P = 0.003), arms (0.3 kg; 95% CI, 0.1-0.5 kg; P = 0.001), legs (0.8 kg; 95% CI, 0.1-1.4 kg; P = 0.018), and trunk (1.4 kg; 95% CI, 0.4-2.3 kg; P = 0.004). Oxandrolone also augmented loss of fat tissue of the whole body (-1 kg; 95% CI, -1.6 to -0.4; P = 0.002), arms (-0.2 kg; 95% CI, -0.5 to -0.02 kg; P = 0.032), legs (-0.4 kg; 95% CI, -0.6 to -0.1; P = 0.009), and tended to reduce trunk fat (-0.4 kg; 95% CI, -0.9 to 0.04; P = 0.07). Improvements in muscle strength and power, chair stand, and dynamic balance were all significant over time (P < 0.05) but not different between groups (P > 0.05).
Conclusions: Oxandrolone improves body composition adaptations to PRT in older women over 12 wk without augmenting muscle function or functional performance beyond that of PRT alone.