DHEA Helps Older Women Build Spinal Bone Density

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

In women ages 65-75 taking DHEA1 along with calcium and vitamin D increased their bone density 2% each year during a 2 year study.

“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 addition to its beneficial effects on bone, DHEA replacement may have other benefits including improvements in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, improvements in immune function, and improvements in psychological health,” Weiss said.

This study used a fairly high dose of DHEA, 50 mg. Because basic DHEA can be converted to testosterone or estrogen, it is not an appropriate supplement for many people. However, the form of DHEA I recommend to women is called 7 keto DHEA metabolite, and it does not metabolize to estrogen or testosterone, offering a safer approach. 

In general health you make about 25 mgs of DHEA per day, and that level steadily declines after at 30 and by age 70 is only 20% of youthful levels. 

DHEA is an important adrenal reserve hormone, released at the time of cortisol production – but staying relatively stable in your blood as it is cleared more slowly than cortisol. It appears to have a buffering effect, in that when it goes low cortisol is more likely to enter a wear and tear mode – which is certainly the case with weight gain.

I am more conservative with DHEA supplementation, suggesting anywhere from 8 – 25 mgs per day of 7-keto DHEA. I feel that some is helpful for many women but you also want to focus on building your overall adrenal function.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ DHEA Helps Build Bone in Older Women  Am J Clin Nutr  Edward P Weiss, Krupa Shah, Luigi Fontana, Charles P Lambert, John O Holloszy, and Dennis T Villareal.

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