There has been much recent interest in the role of DHEA, in both healthy ageing and depression. Although this role is not entirely clear, what has emerged is that, in many ways, DHEA has an anticortisol effect. It has been argued, therefore, that increased 'net' effects of cortisol may occur if there is low DHEA, and that high levels of cortisol may not be biologically damaging if they are accompanied by high DHEA levels. Thus, many have started to measure the cortisol/DHEA ratio as an index more likely to be relevant to the causation of depression. Work to date suggests that this ratio may be higher in patients with depression (Young et al., 2002). Moreover, in a large cross-sectional study, DHEA and DHEA-S were found to be inversely correlated with depression scores (Barrett-Connor et al., 1999). Finally, some studies do suggest that DHEA treatment may be an effective antidepressant, presumably acting by reducing the biological effects of cortisol (Wolkowitz et al., 1999). However, this work remains in its early stages.

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