Certain nutritional supplements can boost the effectiveness of antidepressants for people diagnosed with clinical depression.
Researchers at Harvard and the University of Melbourne examined 40 clinical trials that used nutritional supplements to treat clinical depression in combination with prescription antidepressants such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and tricyclics.
Omega 3 fish oils, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), methylfolate (bioactive form of folate) and Vitamin D, were all found to boost the effects of medication.
"The strongest finding from our review was that omega 3 fish oil — in combination with antidepressants — had a statistically significant effect over a placebo," said Australian researcher Dr. Jerome Sarris.
"Many studies have shown omega 3s are very good for general brain health and improving mood, but this is the first analysis of studies that looks at using them in combination with antidepressant medication.
"The difference for patients taking both antidepressants and omega 3, compared to a placebo, was highly significant. This is an exciting finding because here we have a safe, evidence-based approach that could be considered a mainstream treatment."
Although the researchers found that methylfolate, vitamin D, and SAMe also increased the effectiveness of antidepressants, they found mixed results for zinc, vitamin C and tryptophan (an amino acid). Folic acid didn't work particularly well, nor did inositol.
"A large proportion of people who have depression do not reach remission after one or two courses of antidepressant medication," Dr Sarris said. "There's real potential here to improve the mental health of people who have an inadequate response to them."
Although the researchers found no side effects from combining the supplements with antidepressants, they urged patients to consult with their doctors before trying them on their own.
The use of antidepressants has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Now, one in 10 Americans takes a prescription antidepressant medication.
The analysis was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
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