DHEA in elderly women and DHEA or testosterone in elderly men

K. Sreekumaran Nair, Robert A. Rizza, Peter O'Brien, Ketan Dhatariya, Kevin R. Short, Ajay Nehra, Janet L. Vittone, George G. Klee, Ananda Basu, Rita Basu, Claudio Cobelli, Gianna Toffolo, Chiara Dalla Man, Donald J. Tindall, L. Joseph Melton, Glenn E. Smith, Sundeep Khosla, Michael D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

441 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone are widely promoted as antiaging supplements, but the long-term benefits, as compared with potential harm, are unknown. METHODS: We performed a 2-year, placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind study involving 87 elderly men with low levels of the sulfated form of DHEA and bioavailable testosterone and 57 elderly women with low levels of sulfated DHEA. Among the men, 29 received DHEA, 27 received testosterone, and 31 received placebo. Among the women, 27 received DHEA and 30 received placebo. Outcome measures included physical performance, body composition, bone mineral density (BMD), glucose tolerance, and quality of life. RESULTS: As compared with the change from baseline to 24 months in the placebo group, subjects who received DHEA for 2 years had an increase in plasma levels of sulfated DHEA by a median of 3.4 μg per milliliter (9.2 μmol per liter) in men and by 3.8 μg per milliliter (10.3 μmol per liter) in women. Among men who received testosterone, the level of bioavailable testosterone increased by a median of 30.4 ng per deciliter (1.1 nmol per liter), as compared with the change in the placebo group. A separate analysis of men and women showed no significant effect of DHEA on body-composition measurements. Neither hormone altered the peak volume of oxygen consumed per minute, muscle strength, or insulin sensitivity. Men who received testosterone had a slight increase in fat-free mass, and men in both treatment groups had an increase in BMD at the femoral neck. Women who received DHEA had an increase in BMD at the ultradistal radius. Neither treatment improved the quality of life or had major adverse effects. CONCLUSIONS: Neither DHEA nor low-dose testosterone replacement in elderly people has physiologically relevant beneficial effects on body composition, physical performance, insulin sensitivity, or quality of life. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00254371.)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1647-1659
Number of pages13
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number16
StatePublished - Oct 19 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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