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Recent headlines made headlines that a major review article found “no clear evidence” that low levels of serotonin cause depression and questioned the value of taking selective reuptake inhibitor antidepressants. serotonin (SSRI).
However, many experts weren’t surprised that low serotonin levels aren’t the only cause of depression, and many disagree with the conclusion that serotonin has no role in depression. . Depression is a heterogeneous disorder, both in terms of causes and symptoms. This makes it unlikely that there is a single treatment for depression that is effective for all patients, but it does not mean that existing treatments are ineffective for everyone.
Experts warn that patients should not stop taking SSRIs and that this new evidence does not contradict the results of randomized controlled trials of thousands of depressed people that have definitively shown that SSRIs and other antidepressants are effective in the treatment of depression. treatment of depression.
But medicine is not the only answer either. Three other recent research studies have also confirmed the benefits of a healthy diet, probiotics, and vitamin B6 supplements in relieving depression and anxiety.
The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis
A research team from the University of Basel and the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel (UPK) reported in the journal Translational psychiatry that probiotics can support treatment with antidepressants.
Among subjects with depression, those who received a probiotic in addition to antidepressants for 31 days showed an increase in lactic acid bacteria in their gut flora compared to those who received antidepressants alone, as well as greater improvement in depressive symptoms. and normalization of brain activity in the brain. regions associated with emotional processing. The latter effect was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while subjects viewed neutral or fearful faces.
“Although the microbiome-gut-brain axis has been the subject of research for several years, the exact mechanisms have yet to be elucidated,” said Anna-Chiara Schaub, doctoral student in the UPK Department of Psychiatry and co-author. of the study. “With additional knowledge of the specific effect of certain bacteria, it may be possible to optimize the selection of bacteria and use the best mix in order to support the treatment of depression.”
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The benefits of high-dose vitamin B6
Researchers at the University of Reading measured the effect of high doses of daily vitamin B6 supplements on young adults for a month and found that the subjects reported feeling less anxious and depressed. The doses were about 50 times the recommended daily allowance.
As reported in Human psychopharmacology: clinical and experimentalthis effect was not observed in subjects who received high doses of a daily vitamin B12 supplement or a placebo.
Although previous studies have shown that multivitamins can reduce stress levels, few studies have been conducted on the particular vitamins that cause this effect. Vitamin B6 is known to increase the body’s production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
“Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, and our study links this calming effect to reduced anxiety in participants,” said lead author Dr. David Field from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading. “Many foods, including tuna, chickpeas, and many fruits and vegetables, contain vitamin B6. However, the high doses used in this trial suggest that supplements would be needed to have a positive effect on mood.
While acknowledging that research in this area is still in its infancy, Field added that “nutrition-based interventions produce far fewer unpleasant side effects than drugs, and so in the future, people might prefer them as an intervention… [o]One potential option would be to combine vitamin B6 supplements with talk therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy to enhance their effect.
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An apple a day could keep the psychiatrist away
A study in the British Journal of Nutrition reported that after controlling for demographic and lifestyle factors such as age, general health, and exercise, the more often people ate fruit, the lower their scores for the depression and higher for mental well-being. The frequency of fruit consumption in a typical week was found to be more important than the total amount consumed. No direct association was found between vegetable consumption and psychological health.
Researchers also found that those who frequently snacked on nutrient-poor salty foods (like potato chips) were more likely to experience daily mental lapses, lower mental wellbeing, and higher anxiety, stress, and depression.
“Very little is known about how diet can affect mental health and well-being, and although we have not directly examined causality here, our results may suggest that frequent snacking nutrient-poor salty foods can increase daily mental lapses, which in turn reduces psychological health,” said Nicola-Jayne Tuck, lead author and doctoral student in Aston University’s College of Health and Life Sciences. “Changing what we snack on may be a very simple and easy way to improve our mental well-being.”
Tuck added, “Overall, it’s definitely worth trying to get into the habit of reaching for the fruit bowl.”