Sublingual testosterone replacement improves muscle mass and strength, decreases bone resorption, and increases bone formation markers in hypogonadal men--a clinical research center study.
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To study the effects of androgen replacement therapy on muscle mass and strength and bone turnover markers in hypogonadal men, we administered sublingual testosterone (T) cyclodextrin (SLT; 5 mg, three times daily) to 67 hypogonadal men (baseline serum T, < 8.4 nmol/L) recruited from 4 centers in the U.S.: Torrance (n = 34), Durham (n = 12), New York (n = 9), and Salem (n = 12). Subjects who had received prior T therapy were withdrawn from injections for at least 6 weeks and from oral therapy for 4 weeks. Body composition, muscle strength, and serum and urinary bone turnover markers were measured before and after 6 months of SLT. We have shown previously that this regimen for 60 days will maintain adequate serum T levels and restore sexual function. Total body (P = 0.0104) and lean body mass (P = 0.007) increased with SLT treatment in the 34 subjects in whom body composition was assessed. There was no significant change in total body fat or percent fat. The increase in lean body mass was mainly in the legs; the right leg lean mass increased from 8.9 +/- 0.3 kg at 0 months to 9.2 +/- 0.3 kg at 6 months (P = 0.0008). This increase in leg lean mass was associated with increased leg muscle strength, assessed by leg press (0 months, 139.0 +/- 4.0 kg; 6 months, 147.7 +/- 4.2 kg; P = 0.0038). SLT replacement in hypogonadal men led to small, but significant, decreases in serum Ca (P = 0.0029) and the urinary calcium/creatinine ratio (P = 0.0066), which were associated with increases in serum PTH (P = 0.0001). At baseline, the urinary type I collagen-cross linked N-telopeptides/creatinine ratio [75.6 +/- 7.9 nmol bone collagen equivalents (BCE/mmol] was twice the normal adult male mean (41.0 +/- 3.6 nmol BCE/mmol) and was significantly decreased in response to SLT treatment at 6 months (68.2 +/- 7.7 nmol BCE/mmol; P = 0.0304) without significant changes in urinary creatinine. Serum skeletal alkaline phosphatase did not change. In addition, SLT replacement caused significant increases in serum osteocalcin (P = 0.0001) and type I procollagen (P = 0.0012). Bone mineral density did not change during the 6 months of SLT treatment. We conclude that SLT replacement therapy resulted in increases in lean muscle mass and muscle strength. Like estrogen replacement in hypogonadal postmenopausal females, androgen replacement therapy led to decreased bone resorption and urinary calcium excretion. Moreover, androgen replacement therapy may have the additional benefit of increasing bone formation. A longer term study for several years duration would be necessary to demonstrate whether these changes in bone turnover marker levels will result in increased bone mineral density decreased fracture risks, and reduced frailty in hypogonadal men.