World’s largest ever review finds which supplements may aid mental health

A new analysis has found evidence to suggest that omega-3 supplements could help with certain mental health conditions. — AFP pic
A new analysis has found evidence to suggest that omega-3 supplements could help with certain mental health conditions. — AFP pic

SYDNEY, Sept 11 ― 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 ever 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 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 some evidence too that omega-3 supplements could also have small benefits for ADHD, although 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 E, C, or D, or minerals, for example zinc and magnesium, for any of the mental disorders.

In addition, the team also 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 which 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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