Late life depression is often associated with a poor response to antidepressants; therefore an alternative strategy for therapy is required. Although several studies have reported that phosphatidylserine (PS) may be effective for late life depression and that omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have also proven beneficial for many higher mental functions, including depression, no concrete conclusion has been reached. This study was performed to clarify the effect of PS and omega-3 fatty acid-containing supplement for late life depression by not only clinical evaluation but also salivary cortisol levels. Eighteen elderly subjects with major depression were selected for the study. In all, insufficient improvement had been obtained by antidepressant therapy for at least 6 months. The exclusion criteria from prior brain magnetic resonance images (MRI) included the presence of structural MRI findings compatible with stroke or other gross brain lesions or malformations, but not white matter hypersensitivities. They took a supplement containing PS 100 mg, DHA 119 mg and EPA 70 mg three times a day for 12 weeks. The effects of the supplement were assessed using the 17-item Hamilton depression scale (HAM-D17) and the basal levels and circadian rhythm of salivary cortisol. The study adopted them as indices because: salivary cortisol levels are high in patients with depression, their circadian rhythm related to salivary cortisol is often irregular, and these symptoms are alleviated as depression improves. The mean HAM-D17 in all subjects taking the supplement was significantly improved after 12 weeks of taking the supplement. These subjects were divided into 10 non-responders and 8 responders. The basal levels and circadian rhythm of salivary cortisol were normalized in the responders while not in non-responders. PS and omega-3 fatty acids, or other elements of the supplement, may be effective for late life depression, associated with the correction of basal levels and circadian rhythm of salivary cortisol.
Keywords: HAM-D; cortisol; late life depression; omega-3 fatty acids; phosphatidylserine.