News Release

November 5, 2004

Contact: Kristina Goodnough, 860-679-3700

Wanted: Older Women to Bulk Up a Little

UConn Health Center Needs Volunteers for Bone Health and Balance Study

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Women over the age of 65 are needed for a study to evaluate the effect of exercise and the supplement DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) on their bone health, strength and balance.

The women will be given DHEA, a natural hormone produced by the body, and twice weekly exercise sessions of yoga or gentle aerobics for a six-month period to see if the combination improves their bone strength and balance.

“Frailty in older women is involved in about 90 percent of hip fractures, which can sharply curtail activities and even independent living,” according to Anne Kenny, M.D., UConn Center on Aging, who is the principal investigator for the study, funded by the National Space Aeronautical Administration (NASA) which is interested in strength and bone health for astronauts. “Our goal is to see whether DHEA, a naturally occurring hormone, and exercise can increase older women’s strength and balance and help them prevent falls and fractures,” says Kenny. “We want to see if it will help them bulk up a little. We know that astronauts lose bone and muscle while they are in space and their DHEA levels decline. If we can find an association between DHEA and strength in frail adults, it might be helpful for astronauts as well.”

DHEA is a hormone normally produced by the adrenal gland in humans. “DHEA may have a slightly unsavory reputation because it was abused by professional athletes searching for peak performance,” says Kenny. “In fact, it’s a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal glands that peaks in humans in the mid-20s and then declines, as much as 80 percent by age 70. Low levels of DHEA have been associated with higher death rates and higher fracture rates. We want to see if DHEA supplements in small amounts are beneficial to bone, muscle and balance in older adults,” says Kenny. “We all lose muscle as we age, whether we want to or not,” says Kenny. “Perhaps hormones like DHEA are part of the reason why it’s a little bit easier to stay fit when we’re younger.”

Women who volunteer for the study will participate in a brief questionnaire and have their DHEA levels tested by a simple blood test. “While DHEA levels go down generally as we age, the decline can vary significantly among individuals. We are looking for volunteers with low levels of the hormone because we will be giving DHEA supplements and we don’t want their levels to get too high,” says Kenny.

For more information about the study, call Kenny’s study line at 1-866-846-2849.

IRB No. 04-059

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