J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2019 06;104(6):2195-2215
Department of Nephrology and Hypertension, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Context: Sex steroid hormones exhibit anabolic effects whereas a deficiency engenders sarcopenia. Moreover, supraphysiological levels of glucocorticoids promote skeletal muscle atrophy, whereas physiologic levels of glucocorticoids may improve muscle performance.
Objective: To study the relationship between both groups of steroid hormones at a physiological range with skeletal muscle mass and function in the general population.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of the associations between urinary excreted androgens, estrogens, glucocorticoids, and steroid hormone metabolite ratios with lean mass and handgrip strength in a population-based cohort.
Setting: Three centers in Switzerland including 1128 participants.
Measures: Urinary steroid hormone metabolite excretion by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, lean mass by bioimpedance analysis, and isometric handgrip strength by dynamometry.
Results: For lean mass a strong positive association was found with 11β-OH-androsterone and with most glucocorticoids. Androsterone showed a positive association in middle-aged and older adults. Estriol showed a positive association only in men. For handgrip strength, strong positive associations with androgens were found in middle-aged and older adults, whereas positive associations were found with cortisol metabolites in young to middle-aged adults.
Conclusions: Sex steroids and glucocorticoids are strongly positively associated with skeletal muscle mass and strength in the upper limbs. The associations with muscle strength appear to be independent of muscle mass. Steroid hormones exert age-specific anabolic effects on lean mass and handgrip strength. Deficits in physical performance of aged muscles may be attenuated by androgens, whereas glucocorticoids in a physiological range increase skeletal muscle mass at all ages, as well as muscle strength in particular in younger adults.