Research presented in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests supplements containing DHEA combined with vitamin D and calcium may increase bone density in older women.
DHEA is a natural steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland, gonads and brain, and doctors believe those who have low levels of the hormone may suffer from lower bone density, which in turn makes them susceptible to fractures.
The study was conducted by scientists from Saint Louis University and Washington University who divided women aged 65-75 into two groups.
The first received the DHEA supplement, vitamin D and calcium for two years. The control group received a placebo, vitamin D and calcium for the first year and then the DHEA supplement the second year.
At the end of the second year, women who initially took the placebo experienced an approximate 2 percent increase in spinal bone density, while those receiving DHEA supplement from the start showed around a 4 increase.
The researchers believe vitamin D and calcium supplements, which were given to both groups, could be responsible for the increase in bone density.
Dr Edward Weiss, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University, says, "DHEA replacement may have other benefits including improvements in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, improvements in immune function and improvements in psychological health."