Sex-Specific Effects of DHEA

WHR Blog -

Women over age 55 face some increased health risks, including the risk of bone and muscle loss. There are therapies to help reduce these risks, and a recent study has found that a specific hormone, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), may help increase muscle mass and prevent bone loss in older women. However, these results were not found among older men.

The study, published in Clinical Endocrinology, consisted of researchers analyzing data from four separate randomized clinical trials, all double-blinded and placebo-controlled. The studies were designed to identify the effects on bone composition and bone mineral density of administering oral DHEA to raise levels in men and women ages 55 to 85 to those found in young adults. This is because bone and muscle mass loss is a result, in part, of decreased androgen and estrogen hormone production as adults get older. Therefore, researchers hypothesized that increasing DHEA hormone levels may help offset bone and muscle mass loss.

After comparing the four studies, researchers found improved bone mineral density in women’s lumbar spine, total hip, and trochanter, but not in men’s. However, among men, they found a statistically significant decrease in fat mass. One downside of the study is that none of the trials specifically targeted women with osteoporosis, which may have impacted the results. The researchers have indicated that further studies with women who already have osteoporosis, and examining long-term therapy may be beneficial to gather more information on to how to use this therapy to help both aging men and women.


Jankowski, C.M. et al. Sex‐specific effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on bone mineral density and body composition: A pooled analysis of four clinical trials. Clinical Endocrinology, 2018; 90(2) 293-300.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. (2018, December 4). Sex-specific effects of DHEA on bone mineral density and body composition: Among older women, the naturally occurring hormone DHEA may preserve bone and muscle mass when compared with placebo, study suggests. ScienceDaily.

WHRI Announces 2019 Shaw Family Pioneer Awardees

WHR Blog -

The Women's Health Research Institute is pleased to announce the recipients for the 2019 Shaw Family Pioneer Awards. This year, awardees include:

Matthew J. Major, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for his project "Characterizing the gait biomechanics of women with leg amputation for improving evidence-based rehabilitation practice,"andBria Coates, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics (Critical Care) for her project, "Impact of sex and NOD-like receptor activation in prepubertal influenza A virus infection."

Matthew Major receives the Shaw Family Pioneer Award at the 3rd Annual Celebration for Sex Inclusive Science on January 25th, 2019. Pictured (Left to Right): WHRI Co-Director Marla Mendelson, MD, WHRI Founder and Co-Director Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, Matthew Major, PhD, Robert Shaw ('70 , '81), and Charlene Shaw ('70). Photo courtesy of R. J. Garrick, PhD, NUPOC. 

Established in 2018, the Shaw Family Pioneer Awards provide support for Northwestern University investigators who conduct or are interested in pursuing sex-based research. The awards also enable early-career investigators to conduct pilot studies that will help build their portfolio and enhance their ability to compete for larger federal grants.