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J Endocrinol. 1996 Sep;150 Suppl:S43-50.

Metabolic effects of 12-month percutaneous dehydroepiandrosterone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology, CHUL Research Center, Quebec, Canada.


We have evaluated the effect of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) replacement therapy in 60- to 70-year-old women (n = 15) who received a single daily percutaneous application of a 10% DHEA cream for 12 months. While anthropometric measurements showed no change in body weight, we observed a 9.8% decrease in subcutaneous skinfold thickness at 12 months (P < 0.05). This was confirmed by measurements of midthigh fat and muscle areas by computed tomography where a 3.8% decrease (P < 0.05) in femoral fat and a 3.5% increase (P < 0.05) in femoral muscular areas were observed at 12 months. There was no significant change in abdominal fat measurements but the waist-to-hip ratio was only 0.83 at the onset of treatment. These changes in body fat and muscular mass were associated with a 11% decrease (P < 0.05) in fasting plasma glucose and a 17% decrease (P < 0.05) in fasting insulin levels. Treatment with DHEA had no adverse effect on the lipid or lipoprotein profile. In fact, an overall trend towards a decrease in total cholesterol and its lipoprotein fractions was observed. Plasma triglycerides were not affected. Plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol decreased by 8% but the ratio HDL/cholesterol was unchanged by DHEA treatment because of a parallel decrease in total cholesterol. The index of sebum secretion showed a 73% increase (P < 0.05) during the 12 months of DHEA therapy followed by a return to pretreatment values 3 months after cessation of therapy. At the same time, sex hormone-binding globulin levels decreased (P < 0.05) during treatment and returned to pretreatment values 3 months after the end of therapy. Serum gonadotropins were not changed by DHEA treatment. Although not significant, we observed a tendency towards an elevation in serum GH levels. Values of serum IGF-I remained unchanged while plasma IGF-binding protein-3 levels significantly decreased (P < 0.05) during treatment and returned to pretreatment values after cessation of DHEA therapy. The present data clearly indicate the beneficial effects of DHEA therapy in postmenopausal women through its transformation into androgens and/or estrogens in specific intracrine tissues without any significant side effects.

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