The plasma levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfated form (DHEAS) decline ∼80% between the ages of 25 and 75 yr. Muscle mass and strength also decrease with aging. Published data on the effects of DHEA replacement on muscle mass and strength are conflicting. The goals of this study were to determine whether DHEA replacement increases muscle mass and strength and/or enhances the effects of heavy resistance exercise in elderly women and men. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of 10 mo of DHEA replacement therapy with the addition of weightlifting exercise training during the last 4 mo of the study (DHEA + exercise group, n = 29; placebo + exercise group, n = 27). DHEA alone for 6 mo did not significantly increase strength or thigh muscle volume. However, DHEA therapy potentiated the effect of 4 mo of weightlifting training on muscle strength, evaluated by means of one-repetition maximum measurement and Cybex dynamometry, and on thigh muscle volume, measured by magnetic resonance imaging. Serum insulin-like growth factor concentration increased in response to DHEA replacement. This study provides evidence that DHEA replacement has the beneficial effect of enhancing the increases in muscle mass and strength induced by heavy resistance exercise in elderly individuals.
Aging men develop a significant loss of muscle strength that occurs in conjunction with a decline in serum testosterone concentrations. We investigated the effects of testosterone administration to six healthy men [67 +/- 2 (SE) yr] on skeletal muscle protein synthesis, strength, and the intramuscular insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) system. Elderly men with serum testosterone concentrations of 480 ng/dl or less were given testosterone injections for 4 wk to produce serum concentrations equal to those of younger men. During testosterone administration muscle strength (isokinetic dynamometer) increased in both right and left hamstring and quadricep muscles as did the fractional synthetic rate of muscle protein (stable-isotope infusion). Ribonuclease protection assays done on total RNA from muscle showed that testosterone administration increased mRNA concentrations of IGF-I and decreased mRNA concentrations of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-4. We conclude that increasing testosterone concentrations in elderly men increases skeletal muscle protein synthesis and strength. This increase may be mediated by stimulation of the intramuscular IGF-I system.