Women: Act Now to Protect Bone & Muscle

January 1, 2019

A pooled analysis of four randomized, controlled trials published on November 12, 2018 in Clinical Endocrinology concluded that supplementing with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may be an effective therapy for preserving muscle mass and bone in women.

The trials included a total of 585 subjects between the ages of 55 and 88 years who received DHEA or a placebo for one year. Women using traditional postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were excluded from enrollment. Bone mineral density (BMD), fat mass, serum DHEA sulfate levels, estradiol, testosterone and other factors were measured at the beginning and end of the studies.

Pooled analysis of the participants found an increase in serum testosterone, estradiol, and DHEA sulfate (which increased to levels found in young adults) among women who received DHEA. DHEA-supplemented women maintained total hip BMD and experienced an increase in BMD of the lumbar spine and trochanter. The authors remark that DHEA therapy suppresses bone resorption, which increases in postmenopausal women due to a decline in estradiol.

"Because age-related decreases in androgen and estrogen production contribute to the loss of bone and muscle mass in older adults, restoring DHEA sulfate to youthful levels may be an effective strategy for maintaining bone and muscle," commented lead researcher Catherine M. Jankowski, PhD, FACSM, who is an exercise physiologist and associate professor at the University of Colorado College of Nursing at the Anschutz Medical Campus. "It is possible that DHEA therapy could be a strategy to mitigate the decline in BMD in postmenopausal women who do not tolerate other treatments. Combining DHEA therapy with resistance exercise that imparts mechanical strain to bone may promote greater increases in muscle mass and BMD compared to either intervention alone.”

“DHEA therapy may be an effective approach for preserving bone and muscle mass in women,” the authors conclude.

Apply what you’ve learned: Bone Health

  • Loss of bone mass often goes undetected until the occurrence of a fracture. Similarly, muscle wasting is frequently not recognized or treated by physicians until it reaches an advanced stage. Act early to preserve muscle mass and bone in order to help maintain mobility and independence during later years.
  • Adequate daily protein intake is needed for many of the body’s functions, including the preservation of muscle. Older men and women may need more protein than those who are younger.,1 Whey protein is a good source of amino acids needed by the body to maintain muscle mass.2,3 Vegans now have an excellent alternative with pea-sourced protein powder.
  • Weight-bearing exercise is the best type of movement to improve bone strength. Think walking, stair-climbing, dancing or working out with weights.
  • While the benefits of healthy eating habits cannot be overemphasized, most people’s diets fail to provide optimal amounts of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and other nutrients to support bone health. A bone-building supplement will ensure the intake of essential vitamins and minerals to maintain healthy bones.
  1. Mithal A et al. Osteoporos Int. 2013 May;24(5):1555-66.
  2. Hayes A et al. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jan;11(1):40-4.
  3. Wolfe RR et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1582S-1583S.

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