DHEA Replacement May Be Beneficial for Hypoadrenal Women

Yael Waknine

June 21, 2004

June 21, 2004 — Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) replacement therapy improves general health perception, arousal, and learning efficiency in hypoadrenal women, according to the results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study presented at the 86th annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The study investigated the possibility that 50 mg daily of DHEA may improve the quality of life in hypoadrenal women taking glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement.

“Rather than looking at people who’ve got low DHEA levels for replacement, we actually chose hypoadrenal women — women who have Addison’s disease or who have had their [adrenal] glands taken out — who do not produce DHEA,” Ketan K. Dhatariya, MD, from the Mayo Clinic and Foundation in Rochester, Minnesota, and lead author of the study, told Medscape. “So results are...actually due to DHEA and not to any endogenous hormones [the women] may have.”

The investigators enrolled 33 hypoadrenal women aged 21 to 80 years. The women were treated with 50 mg of DHEA or placebo daily for 12 weeks followed by a two-week washout period between phases.

General health perception was measured using the Memory Functioning, Changes in Sexual Functioning, and Health Status questionnaires, as well as the Beck Depression Inventory. Women receiving DHEA showed improvement in health perception compared with those receiving placebo (-0.19 ± 0.83 vs. 0.66 ± 0.92; P = .03), as well as significantly higher arousal scores (8.5 ± 1.98 vs. 7.67 ± 2.19; P = .02).

Likewise, Auditory Verbal Learning Test scores showed significant improvement after the DHEA phase (54.87 ± 10.23 vs. 51.42 ± 9.39; 95% confidence interval, 0.63 - 6.21; P = .03).

“In this study we measured a huge number of psychological variables, most of [the results] being...negative. However, there were three positives; [subjects] showed an increase in sexual arousal scores,...an increase in learning efficiency,...and an increase in general health perception when taking DHEA as compared with placebo,” Dr. Dhatariya noted.

“Our conclusions were that while this was a broadly negative study, [DHEA] did improve scores in those three areas,” Dr. Dhatariya said. “A trial of 50 mg DHEA daily would be warranted in those women who have got adequate glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement yet feel subjectively that they have a lower quality of life.”

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

ENDO 2004: Abstract P2-572. Presented June 17, 2004.

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

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