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Natural supplement put to test for PTSD

Posted September 13, 2013
(Fall 2013 VA Research Currents; online ahead of print)

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A natural supplement called 7-Keto DHEA, available in various brands at vitamin retailers, drug stores, and health food stores, is being tested at the Bay Pines (Fla.) VA Medical Center for its potential benefits for PTSD. (Photo: iStockphoto)

A natural supplement called 7-Keto DHEA, available in various brands at vitamin retailers, drug stores, and health food stores, is being tested at the Bay Pines (Fla.) VA Medical Center for its potential benefits for PTSD. (Photo: iStockphoto)

A clinical trial now under way at the Bay Pines (Fla.) VA Medical Center will see whether a natural supplement called 7-Keto can ease the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.

The supplement is a derivative of a natural hormone called DHEA. DHEA interacts with another hormone, cortisol, to help control the body's reaction to stress.

Supplementation with DHEA itself has been found to help some patients cope with stress and boost energy and mood. But DHEA has to be taken under careful supervision, as it can alter levels of male and female sex hormones, such as androgen and estrogen.

The 7-Keto form is designed to not have that effect. It is touted as a weight-loss supplement, and some studies support that use, but its effects on low mood and other psychological problems are backed, so far, by only limited preliminary evidence.

Ronald Zenk, founder and director of Minneapolis-based Humanetics Pharmaceuticals, which makes 7-Keto, describes it as a "natural compound that has been shown in previous trials to block the negative effects of cortisol." He says there are case studies that" suggest that adding 7-Keto to existing treatment regimens may be beneficial in relieving some of the symptoms associated with PTSD."

The VA study will include up to 120 Veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD. The study team, led by Carol O'Brien, PhD, will measure participants' blood levels of DHEA and track PTSD-related symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and memory and attention problems.

Says O'Brien, "It is impossible to overstate the importance of exploring PTSD treatments for our Veterans and newly returning men and women in uniform."