Dehydroepiandrosterone status and efficacy of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation for bone health in anorexia nervosa: A systematic review and meta-analysis

James Lin, Ting Wan Kao, Ying Chih Cheng, Kang Chih Fan, Yu Chen Huang, Che Wei Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study was designed to determine the status of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in women with anorexia nervosa (AN) and to assess the efficacy of DHEA supplementation as a treatment for bone health in women with AN. Method: Studies were retrieved from the PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, and Scopus databases from inception to February 14, 2022. Observational studies that compared serum DHEA levels between women with AN and healthy controls were included for meta-analysis, and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated the effects of DHEA supplementation on bone mass were reviewed. Results: Meta-analysis of 15 cross-sectional studies revealed that patients with AN had significantly elevated serum DHEA levels (mean difference (MD) = 311.63 ng/dl; 95% confidence interval (CI), 78.01–545.25) and reduced DHEAS levels (MD = −24.90 μg/dl; 95% CI, −41.72 to −8.07) compared with healthy controls. A systematic review of seven RCTs found that DHEA monotherapy does not improve bone mineral density (BMD) compared with placebo after adjusting for weight gain. While the combination of DHEA and conjugated oral contraceptives has led to increased bone strength and decreased bone loss, the beneficial effect appears to be limited to older adolescents and adults with closed physes. Potential detrimental effects on BMD were identified in younger adolescents with open physes in one study. Discussion: Due to the lack of apparent benefit of DHEA in women with AN and its potential detrimental effect on BMD in young patients with AN, current evidence does not support the use of DHEA. Public Significance: This study demonstrates that women with anorexia nervosa have abnormal levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), which have been suggested by previous studies to play a role in the development of low bone density in this condition. However, current evidence does not support the use of DHEA as a treatment to preserve bone health in patients with anorexia nervosa given the lack of clear benefit following its use and also because of a potential detrimental effect on bone mineral density in young patients with anorexia nervosa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-746
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • anorexia nervosa
  • bone loss
  • clinical trails
  • dehydroepiandrosterone
  • hormone replacement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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