Background: Late-life depression is associated with high rates of morbidity, premature mortality, disability, functional decline, caregiver burden and increased health care costs. While clinical and public health approaches are focused on prevention or early intervention strategies, the ideal method of intervention remains unclear. No study has set out to evaluate the role of neurobiological agents in preventing depressive symptoms in older populations at risk of depression. Methods/Design: Subjects with previously reported sub-threshold depressive symptoms, aged 60 to 74 years, will be screened to participate in a single-centre, double-blind, randomised controlled trial with three parallel groups involving omega-3 fatty acid supplementation or sertraline hydrochloride, compared with matching placebo. Subjects will be excluded if they have current depression or suicide ideation; are taking antidepressants or any supplement containing omega-3 fatty acid; or have a prior history of stroke or other serious cerebrovascular or cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, significant psychiatric disease (other than depression) or neurodegenerative disease. The trial will consist of a 12 month treatment phase with follow-up at three months and 12 months to assess outcome events. At three months, subjects will undergo structural neuroimaging to assess whether treatment effects on depressive symptoms correlate with brain changes. Additionally, proton spectroscopy techniques will be used to capture brain-imaging markers of the biological effects of the interventions. The trial will be conducted in urban New South Wales, Australia, and will recruit a community-based sample of 450 adults. Using intention-to-treat methods, the primary endpoint is an absence of clinically relevant depression scores at 12 months between the omega-3 fatty acid and sertraline interventions and the placebo condition. Discussion: The current health, social and economic costs of late-life depression make prevention imperative from a public health perspective. This innovative trial aims to address the long-neglected area of prevention of depression in older adults. The interventions are targeted to the pathophysiology of disease, and regardless of the effect size of treatment, the outcomes will offer major scientific advances regarding the neurobiological action of these agents. The main results are expected to be available in 2017. Trial Registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000032055 (12 January 2010)
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- Older adults
- OMEGA-3 fatty acid
- Randomised controlled trial