Low cortisol levels and high DHEA levels retain muscle mass after 65
If you want to prevent your body from losing muscle mass after your 65th birthday, make sure that your cortisol level remains at an acceptable low level and at the same time keep your DHEA level high. We, the industrious compilers of this free web magazine, come to that bold statement after reading the epidemiological study published by Japanese endocrinologists in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
The Japanese studied 108 people over 65 with type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease which the chance of muscle decay. The researchers determined on the basis of muscle strength, muscle mass and daily functioning whether the study participants suffered from age-related muscle loss or, as doctors prefer, sarcopenia. In addition, the researchers analyzed the blood of the study participants, and determined the DHEA sulfate [DHEA-S] and cortisol concentration.
The bulk of the DHEA that circulates in your body is DHEA sulfate.
Click on the figure below for a larger version.
As you would expect, the chance of sarcopenia increased as the years went by. But when the researchers had polished away the effect of all sorts of other factors, the effect of age on sarcopenia was no longer convincing. However, the ratio of cortisol: DHEA sulphate appeared to be a reliable predictor of age-related muscle loss.
The more cortisol there was in the blood of study participants, the greater their chance of sarcopenia. High DHEA levels had the opposite effect.
"A relative increase in cortisol may reflect the presence of stress and stimulate muscle catabolism, whereas a relative decrease in the sulfate ester or DHEA may cause a decrease in the anabolic action or DHEA on muscle; the combination of these factors may lead to sarcopenia", the Japanese summarize their findings.
Wild speculation on our part
According to some studies, Tai Chi increases DHEA levels and also lowers cortisol levels. Could you fight sarcopenia with Tai-Chi, whether or not in combination with resistance training?
And if that doesn't work well, could you then take DHEA? Supplementation with DHEA not only increases the DHEA level, but also lowers cortisol levels...
J Endocr Soc. 2019 Mar 5;3(4):801-13.
Tai Chi as lifestyle: less cortisol, more DHEA 25.12.2017
Meta-study: DHEA improves body composition of older men 11.04.2014
DHEA supplementation lowers cortisol levels 22.07.2013