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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Nov 12;93(23):13410-5.

Relationships of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in the elderly with functional, psychological, and mental status, and short-term mortality: a French community-based study.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U360, Hôpital de la Salpétrière, Paris, France.


In human beings of both sexes, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) circulating in blood is mostly an adrenally secreted steroid whose serum concentration (in the micromolar range and 30-50% higher in men than in women) decreases with age, toward approximately 20-10% of its value in young adults during the 8th and 9th decades. The mechanism of action of DHEA and DHEAS is poorly known and may include partial transformation into sex steroids, increase of bioavailable insulin-like growth factor 1, and effects on neurotransmitter receptors. Whether there is a cause-to-effect relationship between the decreasing levels of DHEAS with age and physiological and pathological manifestations of aging is still undecided, but this is of obvious theoretical and practical interest in view of the easy restoration by DHEA administration. Here we report on 622 subjects over 65 years of age, studied for the 4 years since DHEAS baseline values had been obtained, in the frame of the PAQUID program, analyzing the functional, psychological, and mental status of a community-based population in the south-west of France. We confirm the continuing decrease of DHEAS serum concentration with age, more in men than in women, even if men retain higher levels. Significantly lower values of baseline DHEAS were recorded in women in cases of functional limitation (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living), confinement, dyspnea, depressive symptomatology, poor subjective perception of health and life satisfaction, and usage of various medications. In men, there was a trend for the same correlations, even though not statistically significant in most categories. No differences in DHEAS levels were found in cases of incident dementia in the following 4 years. In men (but not in women), lower DHEAS was significantly associated with increased short-term mortality at 2 and 4 years after baseline measurement. These results, statistically established by taking into account corrections for age, sex, and health indicators, suggest the need for further careful trials of the administration of replacement doses of DHEA in aging humans. Indeed, the first noted results of such "treatment" are consistent with correlations observed here between functional and psychological status and endogenous steroid serum concentrations.

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