Sapolsky RM, Vogelman JH, Orentreich N, Altmann J
J Gerontol 1993 Sep;48(5):B196-200
The physiologic functions of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DS), a precursor of androgens and estrogen and the most abundant steroid in the circulation, are unknown. Nevertheless, numerous studies have shown that low concentrations of DS are correlated with a variety of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in human beings, and administration of DS to experimental animals is associated with protection from similar diseases. Thus, the marked decline in DS concentrations with age in human beings may be of considerable functional significance. However, because of the difficulties in studying any heterogeneous human population, it has been difficult to assess the extent to which the DS decline with age is confounded by any of a number of factors (e.g., smoking, level of activity, genetics, diet, medication and disease). We studied the effects of age on DS concentrations in a well-characterized population of wild yellow baboons living freely in a national park in East Africa. Study of these animals circumvents many of the confounds just noted. In examining animals ranging in age from juvenile status to old age, we observed a robust decline in DS concentrations with age. The magnitude of the decline is approximately equal in both sexes. In addition, the decline is similar in comparing two baboon groups which have fully natural diets with one group which forages heavily on garbage from people.