Osteoporosis International

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 699–707 | Cite as

Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation on bone mineral density, bone markers, and body composition in older adults: the DAWN trial

  • D. von Mühlen
  • G. A. Laughlin
  • D. Kritz-Silverstein
  • J. Bergstrom
  • R. Bettencourt
Original Article



We present results of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of 50 mg daily oral DHEA supplementation for one year on bone mineral density (BMD), bone metabolism and body composition in 225 healthy adults aged 55 to 85 years.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels decline dramatically with age, concurrent with the onset of osteoporosis, suggesting a role for DHEA supplementation in preventing age-related bone loss.


We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of 50 mg daily oral DHEA supplementation for one year on bone mineral density (BMD), bone metabolism and body composition in 225 healthy adults aged 55 to 85 years.


DHEA treatment increased serum DHEA and DHEA sulfate levels to concentrations seen in young adults. Testosterone, estradiol and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels increased in women (all p < 0.001), but not men, receiving DHEA. Serum C-terminal telopeptide of type-1 collagen levels decreased in women (p = 0.03), but not men, whereas bone-specific alkaline phosphatase levels were not significantly altered in either sex. After 12 months, there was a positive effect of DHEA on lumbar spine BMD in women (p = 0.03), but no effect was observed for hip, femoral neck or total body BMD, and no significant changes were observed at any site among men. Body composition was not affected by DHEA treatment in either sex.


Among older healthy adults, daily administration of 50 mg of DHEA has a modest and selective beneficial effect on BMD and bone resorption in women, but provides no bone benefit for men.


Body composition Bone metabolism Bone mineral density (BMD) Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels Placebo-controlled trial Testosterone 



The DAWN study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, grant AG018339 and the National Institute of Health, grant M01 RR00827.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. von Mühlen
    • 1
  • G. A. Laughlin
    • 1
  • D. Kritz-Silverstein
    • 1
  • J. Bergstrom
    • 1
  • R. Bettencourt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Family and Preventive MedicineUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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