5 of the Best Supplements for Depression

Mineral and vitamin supplements can enhance well-being and mental energy not just for healthy adults but for individuals at risk of depression and anxiety.

Mineral and vitamin supplements can be an alternative to the increase of psychiatric medicines for relief of depression and anxiety symptoms.

Mineral and vitamin supplements can also provide the mental energy required to reduce fatigue, enhance mood and manage stress.

It was found in a series of studies that of the 97 individuals with diagnosed mood disorders keeping a 3 day food record, higher mineral and vitamin intake was significantly linked to general enhanced mental functioning.

Supplements which have been proven to enhance mood include Vitamins D and B, 5 HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan), and also Omega 3 and SAMe.

1. Is vitamin D good for depression?

People with depression are often low in vitamin D, and although some studies show a low level of vitamin D and depression link, it’s not clear if low vitamin D levels cause depression, or if low vitamin D levels are secondary to depression.

Low levels of vitamin D are also linked to seasonal affective disorder or SAD, where people get down in the dumps in the dark, short winter days because of lack of sunlight.

Seasonal affective disorder is prevalent when vitamin D stores are typically low. Some studies suggest that vitamin D supplements can help with seasonal affective disorder.

In one randomized controlled trial, a group of 15 subjects with seasonal affective disorder received either 100,000 I.U. of vitamin D or phototherapy, a broad-spectrum light therapy.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
PMID: 10888476
All subjects receiving vitamin D showed improvement in depression scale scores, while those who had phototherapy showed no significant change in depression scale scores.

The study concluded that Vitamin D could be an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder.

There is also a strong link between low vitamin D levels and postnatal depression.2✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
PMID: 21659271

One small study found that women having moderate to severe depression experienced significant improvement in their depression symptoms after receiving vitamin D replacement therapy.3✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1186/s13063-019-3699-3

Because they didn’t alter their antidepressant medications or other factors relating to depression, the study came to the conclusion that correction of their underlying vitamin D shortage could be responsible for the beneficial impact on depression.

The study was conducted on 3 women who had previously been diagnosed with clinical depression, and who were on antidepressant therapy.

Because they had vitamin D deficiency risk factors, such as poor sun exposure and low vitamin D intake, the women each had a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test, which found low vitamin D levels for all 3 women.

Over 8 to 12 weeks, their vitamin D status had been restored to normal by means of oral vitamin D replacement therapy.

Following treatment, using the Beck Depression Inventory questionnaire, all 3 women showed improvement in their symptoms of depression. The Beck Depression Inventory questionnaire scores the degree of sadness as well as other depression symptoms.

A score of 0 to 9 is an indication of minimal depression;  a score of 10 to 18 is an indication of  mild depression; a score of 19 to 29 is an indication of  moderate depression; and a score of 30 to 63 is an indication of  severe depression.

One participant’s score improved from 32 before receiving vitamin D therapy to a score of 12, indicating a change from severe depression to mild depression. Another participant’s score dropped from 26 to 8, suggesting she now had minimal depression symptoms. The other participant’s score of 21 improved to 16 following vitamin D treatment.

Vitamin D and depression summary:

Some studies have indicated that vitamin D supplements can help with depression when an individual already has lower levels of vitamin D, so it would be wise to have your Vitamin D levels checked.

Vitamin D supplements could take quite a while to be effective for depression, so continual use is recommended. Vitamin D deficiency could be one of several factors that contribute to depression, so it should not be your one and only solution.

2. Is SAMe good for depression?

SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine), a commonly used dietary supplement, is a substance that can be found in almost every human cell. SAMe helps produce as well as break down chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain.

Some double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on SAMe for depression have indicated that SAMe is more effective than placebo for treating mild to moderate depression and is just as effective as standard antidepressants.4✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
PMID: 7941964

Many of the studies however used injected SAMe instead of the oral supplement.

A 6-week, double-blind study on orally administered SAMe found that SAMe was about as effective as the antidepressant imipramine for the treatment of mild depression.5✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
PMID: 12418499
SAMe also seems to take effect more quickly than antidepressants which can take 6 – 8 weeks to start working.

Research has also found that a combination of antidepressants and oral SAMe can be helpful to patients who’ve not responded to antidepressant treatment for depression.

A study found that a SAMe and an antidepressant combination treatment improved symptoms in 50 percent of the participants of the study and resulted in complete relief of symptoms in 43 percent of the study participants.

Throughout the 6 week study, they were given SAMe together with their antidepressant, starting off at 400 mg of SAMe twice a day and escalating to 800 mg twice daily after 2 weeks.

SAMe and depression summary:

SAMe should not be combined with other antidepressants without first consulting your doctor. SAMe should not be taken by people who have bipolar disorder as it can worsen manic episodes. SAMe should not be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women.

3. Is 5-HTP good for depression?

The body makes 5-HTP from tryptophan, an amino acid that comes from food. 5-HTP is then changed into the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps to regulate mood. Dietary tryptophan is however inadequate for increasing 5-HTP levels and 5-HTP supplements are necessary.

Some research has proven that 5-HTP can work as efficiently as several kinds of antidepressants for treating individuals having mild – moderate depression. One study found that individuals taking 5-HTP had the same results as those taking the antidepressant Imipramine.6✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
PMID: 336002

An analysis of studies published in 2012 however came to the conclusion that 5-HTP is no better than a placebo.7✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.2147/NDT.S33259

5-HTP and depression summary:

This is adequate proof that 5-HTP is useful for increasing levels of serotonin. Considering the lack of side effects as opposed to antidepressants, it might be worth giving 5-HTP a try to see if it works for you.

Although most studies used daily doses of 150-800 mg, some studies used higher doses. Daily doses of 400 mg for up to a year have been used safely. Don’t make use of 5-HTP if you take antidepressant medication.

4. Is omega-3 good for depression?

Research has suggested that a relative deficit in omega-3 fatty acids could predispose people to psychological disorders like depression.

Some studies based on small quantities of individuals have also indicated that omega-3 supplements with high concentrations of EPA could help reduce depression symptoms in individuals who fail to respond to an initial treatment with antidepressants.

According to one study, using omega-3 supplements for treating major depression in individuals who don’t have anxiety disorders is effective.8✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.4088/JCP.10m05966blu

The study showed that omega-3 improved symptoms of depression in individuals with a depression diagnosis without an anxiety disorder. Effectiveness for these individuals was comparable to that usually seen with conventional treatment with antidepressants.

432 female and male individuals with major unipolar depression were enrolled for this double-blind, randomized study (neither researchers nor participants knew which capsules individuals received).

For 8 weeks, half the individuals took OM3 Emotional Balance 3 capsules a day, a fish oil supplement which contains high EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) concentrations. The other half took 3 identical placebo capsules containing fish oil flavoured sunflower oil.

In contrast to typically designed clinical studies for evaluating antidepressant effectiveness, a large proportion of individuals with complex and difficult-to-treat conditions were included in this study, as well as individuals resistant to conventional treatment with antidepressants and individuals who suffered from an anxiety disorder.

The goal was to evaluate the value of supplementation with Omega-3 in a group of people more like those receiving outpatient clinic treatment.

Omega-3 and depression summary:

It‘s of importance to note that the study evaluated use of omega-3 for 8 weeks, at doses of 150 mg of DHA and 1050 mg of EPA per day. It’s not currently known if taking higher doses of supplements or over a longer period of time would deliver different results.

5. Is niacin good for depression?

Niacin is also known as vitamin B3 and is one of 8 B vitamins. Although researchers have investigated the use of Niacin for depression, alcohol dependence, migraines, dizziness, ADHD and motion sickness, there is to date insufficient scientific research on the effectiveness of Niacin for depression on any of these conditions.

The use of Niacin for depression was much publicized by Bill Wilson, the founder of AA. Bill battled with chronic depression most of his life.

After being introduced to the method of mega vitamin therapy by Dr. Abram Hoffer in the late fifties, he started taking part in research involving the use of Niacin for depression.

Hoffer promoted niacin as a treatment for schizophrenia, although this method wasn’t recognized by popular medical science. Subsequent studies have indicated that Hoffer’s theory had value.

Bill Wilson started to take niacin for depression, 3 g daily. In just a few weeks fatigue and also the depression that had bothered him for some time disappeared, and he believed that it could be beneficial to alcoholics.

He offered it to 30 of his associates in AA and asked them to give it a try. From the thirty, ten were free from depression, tension and anxiety in a single month. An additional ten were better within two months.

Bill believed in Niacin so passionately that he tried to introduce its use to the AA, but the notion was totally refused by the AA. Since then, various practitioners have prescribed high doses of Niacin for depression.

Niacin and depression summary:

High doses of niacin are needed for alleviating depression symptoms and should be prescribed by a practitioner.

5 Of The Best Supplements For Depression

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