Hormone May Combat Mid-Life Depression-Study
Mon Feb 7, 2005

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A nonprescription hormonal supplement sometimes marketed as a "fountain of youth" drug may be effective in combating mid-life depression, doctors said on Monday.

The drug DHEA -- dehydroepiandrosterone -- "may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderately severe midlife-onset major and minor depression" in some patients, said the report from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The findings were based on a small study involving 46 men and women aged 45 to 65 who had major or minor depression of moderate severity.

Some were given the drug and others an inert placebo, and the process was repeated switching the drug and no-drug groups. At the end the participants were measured by standard tests for depression.

In all, 23 showed a reduction of at least 50 percent in their depression after they received the drug. In addition, 13 showed improvement after the placebo.

The report was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The authors said since only half of those studied found improvement with the drug and it is not clear why or for whom it best works, a more conventional anti-depression drug would likely the first choice for treatment.

But for those patients who do not respond to such drugs or are unwilling to take them, DHEA may be useful, it added.

DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is widely touted on the Internet and elsewhere as a "fountain of youth" drug that can slow the aging process. It has also been studied as an alternative HIV/AIDS therapy.