Women over age 55 face some increased health risks, including the risk of bone and muscle loss. There are therapies to help reduce these risks, and a recent study has found that a specific hormone, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), may help increase muscle mass and prevent bone loss in older women. However, these results were not found among older men.

The study, published in Clinical Endocrinology, consisted of researchers analyzing data from four separate randomized clinical trials, all double-blinded and placebo-controlled. The studies were designed to identify the effects on bone composition and bone mineral density of administering oral DHEA to raise levels in men and women ages 55 to 85 to those found in young adults. This is because bone and muscle mass loss is a result, in part, of decreased androgen and estrogen hormone production as adults get older. Therefore, researchers hypothesized that increasing DHEA hormone levels may help offset bone and muscle mass loss.

After comparing the four studies, researchers found improved bone mineral density in women’s lumbar spine, total hip, and trochanter, but not in men’s. However, among men, they found a statistically significant decrease in fat mass. One downside of the study is that none of the trials specifically targeted women with osteoporosis, which may have impacted the results. The researchers have indicated that further studies with women who already have osteoporosis, and examining long-term therapy may be beneficial to gather more information on to how to use this therapy to help both aging men and women.


Jankowski, C.M. et al. Sex‐specific effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on bone mineral density and body composition: A pooled analysis of four clinical trials. Clinical Endocrinology, 2018; 90(2) 293-300.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. (2018, December 4). Sex-specific effects of DHEA on bone mineral density and body composition: Among older women, the naturally occurring hormone DHEA may preserve bone and muscle mass when compared with placebo, study suggests. ScienceDaily.