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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 00:01 GMT
Vitamin hope for Addison's patients
President John F Kennedy
President Kennedy had Addison's disease
A single vitamin could help transform the lives of people with Addison's disease, a study suggests.

Researchers in the UK have found the hormone DHEA can improve the psychological health of people with the disease and may also protect them from osteoporosis.

DHEA occurs naturally in the body and has been linked to ageing. It is not present in people with Addison's disease.


These patients were better able to cope with their day

Dr Eleanor Gurnell
The hormone is already available as a vitamin tablet in the United States.

However, it is banned in other countries, including Britain, and there have been concerns that it could be taken as a performance enhancing drug.

But Dr Eleanor Gurnell and colleagues at the University of Cambridge have found the pill could offer hope to patients with Addison's disease.

They enrolled 100 patients with the condition in a study. Half were given a DHEA tablet, the others were not.

Stronger bones

After a year, they assessed the psychological health of patients using assessment tests.

Patients also underwent scans to test their bone density.

The researchers found that patients who had taken the vitamin were more positive psychologically.

There were also indications that their bones were stronger, although the researchers acknowledged that more study is needed to determine if there is a direct link.

"Patients with Addison's disease generally score lower in psychological tests than people with other chronic diseases.

"But these patients were better able to cope with their day and the stress of everyday life. They were also less tired and had more energy," Dr Gurnell told BBC News Online.

Skin darkening

"A sub-group of patients seemed to benefit incredibly and some didn't notice much difference. It is something we will have to look at further."

Addison's disease is a hormonal disorder. It affects about one in every 100,000 people and affects men and women of all ages.

President John F Kennedy was probably the most famous suffered of Addison's.

The disease is caused by low levels of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone.

The main symptoms are fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite and sometimes unusual darkening of the skin.

The findings were presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual meeting in London.

See also:

27 Apr 02 | Health
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