Study: Nutritional supplements may help mental health conditions

  • Mind
  • Thursday, 19 Sep 2019

Omega-3 supplements give an extra boost to antidepressants in alleviating depression. — AFP

A new large-scale Australian study has found that certain nutritional supplements may help with some mental health conditions, when used in conjunction with conventional treatments.

Led by the NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, the new study is the world’s largest review of the “best of the best” available evidence on whether specific nutrient supplements could have an impact on different mental disorders.

The researchers looked at 33 meta-analyses of randomised control trials and data from a total of 10,951 people with mental health disorders, including depression, stress and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The nutritional supplements were assessed for both their efficacy and safety, including their dosage, tolerability and effect on target symptoms.

The findings, published online in the journal World Psychiatry, showed that most of the nutritional supplements included in the study did not make a significant improvement on mental health.

However, the researchers did find strong evidence to suggest that certain supplements are effective when used as an additional treatment for some mental disorders, in conjunction with a conventional prescribed treatment.

These supplements included omega-3, with the researchers finding strong evidence to suggest that when used as an additional treatment for major depression, it could reduce depressive symptoms more than antidepressants alone.

There was also some evidence that omega-3 supplements could have small benefits for ADHD. But there was no strong evidence that the supplement could benefit schizophrenia or other mental health conditions.

There was emerging evidence that the amino acid N-acetylcysteine could be effective as an add-on treatment for mood disorders and schizophrenia, and that certain folate supplements may also be effective for major depression and schizophrenia. However, folic acid was ineffective.

No compelling evidence was found to support the use of vitamins, such as vitamins E, C or D, or minerals like zinc and magnesium, for any of the mental disorders.

In addition, the team found that even if the nutrient supplements were ineffective as a treatment for mental health conditions, they were all found to be safe when participants followed the recommended dosages and prescriptions, and there was no evidence of serious adverse effects or interference with psychiatric medications.

It is already known that a poor diet appears to be linked with poor mental health. These new findings now add to the growing body of research that has investigated whether nutrient supplementation could benefit those with mental disorders.

The researchers add that future research should aim to determine which individuals may benefit most from evidence-based supplements. – AFP Relaxnews

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