The age-related decline of dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulfate ester levels is thought to be related to the development of age-associated usual modifications, such as neuromuscular function impairments. It is often claimed that individuals can enhance their muscular capacity by boosting dehydroepiandrosterone levels through oral supplementation. However, to our knowledge, there have been no controlled studies on a significant number of individuals demonstrating positive effects on the neuromuscular system. This study determines if 1-year administration of a replacement dose of dehydroepiandrosterone, 50 mg/d, orally administered, could have a beneficial influence on several determinants of the muscular function altered during aging.
This work was completed within the frame of the DHEAge Study, which was conducted in France from March 1, 1998, to October 31, 1999. It was performed on 280 healthy ambulatory and independent men and women aged 60 to 80 years. The study design was a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate serum concentration, handgrip strength, isometric and isokinetic knee muscle strength, and thigh (fat and muscle) cross-sectional area were analyzed before and just after 12 months of placebo or dehydroepiandrosterone treatment.
The results give evidence that dehydroepiandrosterone administration restores dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate serum concentrations to the normal range for young adults (aged 20-50 years). However, no positive effect inherent to dehydroepiandrosterone treatment was observed either on muscle strength or in muscle and fat cross-sectional areas.
The compensation of the deficit of dehydroepiandrosterone during aging using a 50-mg/d dose does not induce beneficial effects on muscle state in healthy subjects. The conditions in which dehydroepiandrosterone could contribute to preserve or improve muscle strength and morphological features still need to be determined.