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Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content

Brooks, Nicole A. BSci (Hons)1; Wilcox, Gisela BMedSc (Hons), MD, FRACP, FRCPA2; Walker, Karen Z. MND, PhD3; Ashton, John F. MSc, PhD4; Cox, Marc B. MSPH, PhD5; Stojanovska, Lily MSc, PhD1

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953
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Objective: To examine the estrogenic and androgenic activity of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) and its effect on the hormonal profile and symptoms in postmenopausal women.

Design: Fourteen postmenopausal women completed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. They received 3.5 g/day of powered Maca for 6 weeks and matching placebo for 6 weeks, in either order, over a total of 12 weeks. At baseline and weeks 6 and 12 blood samples were collected for the measurement of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and sex hormone-binding globulin, and the women completed the Greene Climacteric Scale to assess the severity of menopausal symptoms. In addition, aqueous and methanolic Maca extracts were tested for androgenic and estrogenic activity using a yeast-based hormone-dependent reporter assay.

Results: No differences were seen in serum concentrations of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and sex hormone-binding globulin between baseline, Maca treatment, and placebo (P > 0.05). The Greene Climacteric Scale revealed a significant reduction in scores in the areas of psychological symptoms, including the subscales for anxiety and depression and sexual dysfunction after Maca consumption compared with both baseline and placebo (P < 0.05). These findings did not correlate with androgenic or α-estrogenic activity present in the Maca as no physiologically significant activity was observed in yeast-based assays employing up to 4 mg/mL Maca extract (equivalent to 200 mg/mL Maca).

Conclusions: Preliminary findings show that Lepidium meyenii (Maca) (3.5 g/d) reduces psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, and lowers measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity.

Lepidium Meyenii (Maca) is effective in reducing psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, along with sexual dysfunction associated with menopause.

From the 1School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, Victoria University, St. Albans, Victoria, Australia; 2Monash University Department of Medicine, Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism Unit and Body Composition Laboratory, Monash Medical Centre, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; 3Nutrition and Dietetics Unit, Department of Medicine, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; and Baker Heart Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 4Sanitarium Development and Innovation, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia; and 5Border Biomedical Research Center and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, ElPaso, TX.

Received January 22, 2008; revised and accepted March 10, 2008.

Funding/support: Dr. Cox is supported in part by grant 5G12RR008124 (to the Border Biomedical Research Center/University of Texas at ElPaso) from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NCRR or NIH. The Biomolecule Analysis Core Facility is supported by NIH/NCRR grant 5G12RR008124.

Financial disclosure: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Lily Stojanovska, MSc, PhD, School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, Victoria University, St. Albans Campus, PO Box 14428, Melbourne, VIC 8001, Australia. E-mail: lily.stojanovska@vu.edu.au

©2008The North American Menopause Society