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DHEA Study



Thank you for your interest in the DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) study. We completed the study, (you can read the abstract of the paper with our primary results) which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in August 2006.

The primary purpose of the study was to determine if DHEA replacement therapy (50 mg/day) for one year had beneficial effects on bone mineral density, muscle mass, and fat mass in women and men aged 60 years or older.

DHEA is a very abundant hormone in young people that declines steadily with aging. It is possible that the age-related declines in DHEA with aging contribute to other changes that occur, such as the loss of bone and muscle. On average, the DHEA level of the participants in this study was reduced by about 85% when compared with young women and men. A 50-mg dose of DHEA brings the level up into the normal range. Participants were randomly assigned to take DHEA or a placebo pill (no hormone). Neither the investigators nor the participants knew what pill they were taking (i.e., a double-blinded study).

We compared the changes in bone mineral density, muscle mass, and fat mass in the DHEA and placebo groups. Of the 140 women and men who started the study, 130 finished. The average age of the participants was 70 years. The main findings of this first paper were that a) DHEA replacement therapy for one year improved hip bone mineral density in older adults and spine bone mineral density in older women; and b) DHEA therapy did not significantly increase muscle or decrease body fat. Although our study of DHEA replacement was one of the largest to date, there are more questions about how DHEA may benefit bone health that will need to be addressed in future studies

We have several more DHEA study papers to prepare for publication, including the effects of DHEA replacement on: blood markers that might explain the changes in bone mineral density; fat distribution and glucose tolerance; physical function; and cognitive function. Keep checking the IMAGE webpage for further publication announcements.