DHEA Supplementation in Major and Minor Depression.




Archives of General Psychiatry

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Depression
Professional Data: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Depression


DHEA is the most abundant hormone synthesized and excreted by the adrenal glands. DHEA is the precursor for the synthesis of over 50 other hormones in the body. It is estimated that from 30 to 50 percent of testosterone in men and about 75 percent of estrogen in women is derived from DHEA. Impressive results from some DHEA studies prompted the media to tout DHEA as an "anti-aging" breakthrough. When given to elderly animals or humans, DHEA does tend to increase sex drive, improve energy, mood, and memory, enhance the immune system and increase muscle mass. Human production of DHEA normally peaks during our mid-20s and then begins a steady, progressive decline. Animal studies indicate that DHEA may be helpful for conditions such as obesity, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and general enhancement of the immune system. However, adequate human trials have not been conducted. Although DHEA is available without a prescription, it should be used with caution since it affects the levels of many other hormones in the body.

A study published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry stated that more and more people are looking for alternatives to traditional antidepressants. Some previous studies have shown that supplementation with DHEA may have antidepressant effects. This small study involved 23 men and 23 women who were diagnosed with midlife onset major or minor depression. The participants were between the ages of 45 and 65 and were not using traditional antidepressant therapies. This 12-week trial consisted of 3 weeks of DHEA 90mg per day, 3 weeks at 450mg per day, then 6 weeks of placebo. Using the 17-Item Hamilton Depression Scale Rating, researchers evaluated the depressive symptoms during treatment. The results showed that after the DHEA treatment 23 participants showed improvement, and after the placebo, 13 showed improvement. The authors concluded that DHEA was an effective treatment for midlife-onset depression.1


1. Schmidt PJ, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone Monotherapy in Midlife-Onset Major and Minor Depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry. Feb 2005;62:154-162.