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DHEA May Help Midlife Depression

New research shows that the hormonal supplement DHEA could help relieve mild to moderate depression in middle age individuals.

DHEA usually is not the first option patients consider, but a small study with DHEA treatment resulted in a 50% reduction in depression symptoms in half of the participants.

Researches say that in “in 50% of depressed outpatients who do not respond to first-line antidepressant treatments, or those unwilling to take traditional antidepressants, DHEA may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderate severe midlife-onset major and minor depression.”

Depression is Widespread

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), every year 9% of U.S adults (19 million people) have depression. Women are affected twice as often as men, but depression can strike either sex at any age.

Depression can be devastating. It can make ordinary tasks seem overwhelming and the usual leisure activities less enjoyable. Depression may also affect physical health as mind and body are intertwined.

There are many types of treatments for depression. These include; counseling, medication and lifestyle changes. However for many people, the hardest part is reaching out for help. Doctors and therapists can often help find solutions if patients ask.

A number of people are exploring alternatives to conventional antidepressants. For this reason, researchers have studied DHEA to help combat midlife depression.

About DHEA

DHEA is a naturally occurring steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is the precursor of testosterone and estrogen. Production of DHEA declines in early adulthood. By age 70, DHEA production is only 20% of that produced in the 20s.

DHEA supplements are available over the counter. It is not regulated by the FDA because it is a supplement, however you should speak to your health care provider for more information.

DHEA-Depression Study

The DHEA-Depression study was published in the February edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry. This small study included 46 subjects, both male and female, age 40 to 65 who suffer from mild-moderate depression. None of the subjects were taking any other antidepressants and aside from their depression, were in good health.

Subjects were assigned to take either DHEA or placebo for 6 weeks. After a 12 week break, the subjects switched to the other pill (either DHEA or placebo) for 6 more weeks.

Less Depression with DHEA

Results showed a 50% reduction of depression symptoms in 23 subjects. Both men and women responded similarly.

DHEA Treatment was also associated with the following:

  • Increase testosterone blood levels in both men and women.

  • Improved sexual function (following treatment for 6 weeks)

DHEA was well tolerated. However the most common adverse effects include: acne and oily skin

Note: Researchers say that because of the study’s design, findings don’t apply to severely depressed individuals and that the long-term effects of DHEA are unknown. Thus, further studies are needed. However, if you suffer from depression, you may wish to consult your health care provider about the use of DHEA.