Hormone replacement therapy and physical function in healthy older men. Time to talk hormones?

Manthos G. Giannoulis, Finbarr C. Martin, K. Sreekumaran Nair, A. Margot Umpleby, Peter Sonksen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Improving physical function and mobility in a continuously expanding elderly population emerges as a high priority of medicine today. Muscle mass, strength/power, and maximal exercise capacity are major determinants of physical function,andall decline with aging. This contributes to the incidence of frailtyanddisability observed in older men. Furthermore, it facilitates the accumulation of body fat and development of insulin resistance. Muscle adaptation to exercise is strongly influenced by anabolic endocrine hormones and local load-sensitive autocrine/paracrine growth factors. GH, IGF-I, and testosterone (T) are directly involved in muscle adaptation to exercise because they promote muscle protein synthesis, whereas T and locally expressed IGF-I have been reported to activate muscle stem cells. Although exercise programs improve physical function, in the long-term most oldermenfail to comply. The GH/IGF-I axis and T levels decline markedly with aging, whereas accumulating evidence supports their indispensable role in maintaining physical function integrity. Several studies have reported that the administration of T improves lean body mass and maximal voluntary strength in healthy older men. On the other hand, most studies have shown that administration of GH alone failed to improve muscle strength despite amelioration of the detrimental somatic changes of aging. Both GH and T are anabolic agents that promote muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy but work through separate mechanisms, and the combined administration of GH and T, albeit in only a few studies, has resulted in greater efficacy than either hormone alone. Although it is clear that this combined approach is effective, this review concludes that further studies are needed to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of combined hormone replacement therapy in older men before the medical rationale of prescribing hormone replacement therapy for combating the sarcopenia of aging can be established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-377
Number of pages64
JournalEndocrine reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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