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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Apr;96(4):989-96. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-0926. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

Higher serum free testosterone concentration in older women is associated with greater bone mineral density, lean body mass, and total fat mass: the cardiovascular health study.

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Division of Endocrinology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.



The physiological importance of endogenous testosterone (T) in older women is poorly understood.


The aim of the study was to determine the association of higher total and free T levels with bone mineral density (BMD), lean body mass, and fat mass in elderly women.


Total and free T were measured using sensitive assays in 232 community-dwelling women aged 67-94 yr who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study and had dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scans. Cross-sectional analyses were performed to examine associations between total and free T and BMD and body composition.


In adjusted models, total T was directly associated with BMD at the lumbar spine (P = 0.04) and hip (P = 0.001), but not body composition outcomes, in all women, and after excluding estrogen users and adjusting for estradiol (P = 0.04 and 0.01, respectively). Free T was positively related to hip BMD, lean body mass, and body fat (all P < 0.05), with more than 10% differences in each outcome between women at the highest and lowest ends of the free T range, with attenuation after excluding estrogen users and adjusting for estradiol.


In the setting of the low estradiol levels found in older women, circulating T levels were associated with bone density. Women with higher free T levels had greater lean body mass, consistent with the anabolic effect of T, and, in contrast to men, greater fat mass. Mechanistic studies are required to determine whether a causal relationship exists between T, bone, and body composition in this population and the degree to which any T effects are estrogen-independent.

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