ST. LOUIS Taking a DHEA supplement combined with vitamin D and calcium can significantly improve spinal bone density in older women, according to a new study from a Saint Louis University scientist and his colleagues at Washington University.
"The results of our study are very promising. Similar studies have demonstrated much smaller benefits for bone than we found. However, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies, which are present in half of older adults, may have prevented DHEA from improving bone density in the earlier studies," said Edward Weiss, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University's Doisy College of Health Sciences and lead author of the study.
"In our study, we supplemented all participants with calcium and vitamin D to ensure that deficiencies were not present. This may explain why our study showed more favorable effects on bone density."
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a naturally occurring steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland, gonads and brain, decreases with age. According to Weiss, low DHEA concentration has been associated with low bone density, which lead researchers to question whether restoring DHEA levels could improve or preserve bone health.
The two-year study divided men and women, ages 65 to 75 years old, into two groups. The first group received the DHEA supplement, vitamin D and calcium for two years. The control group received a placebo, vitamin D and calcium for the first year and then received the DHEA supplement the second year in place of the placebo.
The effects of the treatment differed for men and women. After the first year, women in the test group experienced an approximate 2 percent increase in bone density, while women in the control group did not see an increase. After the second year when both groups took the DHEA supplement, women in the test group experienced an additional 2 percent increase for a total of approximately 4 percen
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