Resistance exercise and supraphysiologic androgen therapy in eugonadal men with HIV-related weight loss: A randomized controlled trial

Alison Strawford, Theresa Barbieri, Marta Van Loan, Elizabeth Parks, Don Catlin, Norman Barton, Richard Neese, Mark Christiansen, Janet King, Marc K. Hellerstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Context: Repletion of lean body mass (LBM) that patients lose in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has proved difficult. In healthy, HIV- seronegative men, synergy between progressive resistance exercise (PRE) and very high-dose testosterone therapy has been reported for gains in LBM and muscle strength. Objective: To determine whether a moderately supraphysiologic androgen regimen, including an anabolic steroid, would improve LBM and strength gains of PRE in HIV-infected men with prior weight loss and whether protease inhibitor antiretroviral therapy prevents lean tissue anabolism. Design: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial; post hoc analysis for effect of HIV-protease inhibitor therapy conducted from January to October 1997. Setting: Referral center in San Francisco, Calif. Patients: Volunteer sample of 24 eugonadal men with HIV-associated weight loss (mean, 9% body weight loss), recruited from an AIDS clinic and by referral and by advertisement. Intervention: For 8 weeks, all subjects received supervised PRE with physiologic intramuscular testosterone replacement (100 mg/wk) to suppress endogenous testosterone production. Randomization was between an anabolic steroid, oxandrolone, 20 mg/d, and placebo. Main Outcome Measures: Lean body mass, nitrogen balance (10-day metabolic ward measurements), body weight, muscle strength, and androgen status. Results: Twenty-two subjects completed the study (11 per group). Both groups showed significant nitrogen retention and increases in LBM, weight, and strength. The mean (SD) gains were significantly greater in the oxandrolone group than in the placebo group (5.6 [2.1] vs 3.8 [1.8]g of nitrogen per day [P=.05]; 6.9 [1.7] vs 3.8 [2.9] kg of LBM [P = .005]; greater strength gains for various upper and lower body muscle groups by maximum weight lifted [P = .02-.05] and dynamometry [P = .01-.05]). The mean (SD) high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level declined 0.25 (0.14) mmol/L (9.8 [5.4] mg/dL) significantly in the oxandrolone group (P < .001 compared with placebo). Results were similar whether or not patients were taking protease inhibitors. One subject in the oxandrolone group discontinued the study because of elevated liver function test results. Conclusions: A moderately supraphysiologic androgen regimen that included an anabolic steroid, oxandrolone, substantially increased the lean tissue accrual and strength gains from PRE, compared with physiologic testosterone replacement alone, in eugonadal men with HIV-associated weight loss. Protease inhibitors did not prevent lean tissue anabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1282-1290
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Medical Association
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 14 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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